Dude’s Update On Pro Sports Return

Okay so are the professional sports league going to finish their seasons or not? Since the COVID-19 pandemic caused professional sports leagues to stop playing, the speculation has been when and if the leagues were going to play again. Now that we are nearing July 4th, we wonder when they will start.

If I have to be honest with you, at this point and with the COVID-19 numbers spiking once again, I would rather that leagues not try to finish their seasons and just wait until next year. Regardless, here are the latest updates:

Major League Baseball (MLB) is finally set to begin a 60-game schedule to start the end of July. The schedule will feature 40 games within the division and 20 inter league games against teams in corresponding regional divisions. The league has given each club the permission to decide how they will manage fans to coincide with local restrictions. The restart of “spring training” has already begun. It was also announced this week that MLB cancelled all minor league seasons in 2020. The league also ruled that spitting will not be allowed.

National Hockey League (NHL) is set to open training camps on July 10th. The league is planning to restart with a 24-team tournament to be played in two “hub cities”. The latest word was that Toronto and Edmonton were being considered as the hub cities.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) is planning to revive their season with 22 teams playing in Walt Disney World with no fans in attendance. The spike in COVID cases in Florida has raised some concern but NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is still comfortable with the league’s plan to restart the season. There have been reports that NBA players will wear smart rings which will monitor their temperatures and other vital signs to ensure safety of their players.

Major League Soccer (MLS) is set to start playing again with what they call “The MLS is Back” tournament beginning July 8th in Orlando, Florida. Just this week, six players from FC Dallas have tested positive for the coronavirus. Teams will participate in group play much like they do in the World Cup.

The pandemic is already impacting the start of the National Football League (NFL). The league cancelled the Hall of Fame Game between the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers which was scheduled for August. The league also cut down the preseason schedule from four to two games. There are still talks of shortening the regular season.

College football has been weighing their options but nothing has been decided. Players from Alabama, Clemson, Tennessee and other major colleges have tested positive. Coaches are navigating these issues while trying to prepare for the upcoming season. The season is still scheduled to begin on August 29th. There has been some talk of pushing the start of the season to February of 2021. I’m not sure about that one.

While we have been deprived of our professional sports teams, sports is really not the most important thing right now as the nation finds itself fighting the rise in coronavirus infections. Leagues shouldn’t return to playing just to play but do the smart thing even if it means they might not play at all. The end of the official seasons for the NBA, NHL or MLS shouldn’t be cheapened by some thrown-together tournament. Whoever wins the championship will be tagged with an asterisk anyway. As much as I love sports, let’s just hit the restart button when a full season can be played.

When Will Sports Play Again?

With most of America opening up again after the pandemic which caused professional sports leagues to cancel or postpone their seasons, there are plans of restarting professional sports. Here are the latest plans for restarting:

National Basketball Association (NBA)

The NBA Board of Governors has approved a restart of the 2019-20 season on July 31 with 22 of the league’s 30 teams participating in a tournament format. All games will be held without fans at Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando.

National Hockey League (NHL)

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman recently conducted a press conference outlining the NHL’s Return-to-Play plans.

This format will feature the top-12 teams in each conference playing in a qualifying round, with the top-four seeds in the Eastern and Western Conference (based on points percentage) clinching automatic bids into the first round of the playoffs. That means that the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers have clinched playoff berths in the Eastern Conference, while the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars have clinched in the Western Conference.

These eight teams will also play in an intraconference round-robin event that will determine the top-four seeds of the first round of the playoffs in each conference. These games will be played with regular season overtime and shootout rules, with ties in the final standings broken by regular season points percentage.

The remaining eight teams in each conference will compete in a qualifying round that will feature a bracketed format, meaning that the five-seed will take on the 12-seed, the six-seed will face the 11-seed, the seven-seen battles the 10-seed, and the eight and nine-seed will matchup for the chance to move on to the first round of the playoffs. The matchups for the first round series remain to be set as the Return To Play committee is still determining whether to set the format based on seeding or a bracket.

Here is how that playoff format would look in both conferences:

Eastern Conference:
5 – Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 12 – Montreal Canadiens
6 – Carolina Hurricanes vs. 11 – New York Rangers
7 – New York Islanders vs. 10 – Florida Panthers
8 – Toronto Maple Leafs vs. 9 – Columbus Blue Jackets

Western Conference:
5 – Edmonton Oilers vs. 12 – Chicago Blackhawks
6 – Nashville Predators vs. 11 – Arizona Coyotes
7 – Vancouver Canucks vs. 10 – Minnesota Wild
8 – Calgary Flames vs. 9 – Winnipeg Jets

The qualifying round will be a best-of-five series, while the Return To Play committee has yet to finalize whether the first and second round of the playoffs will be a best-of-five series or a best-of-seven series. However, the Conference Final round and the Stanley Cup Final will all be a best-of-seven series.

Once the round-robin and qualifying rounds have ended, the league will conduct conference-based playoffs in each hub city.

The league is currently still debating over a total of 10 cities, and it will eventually come down to two final cities to host the Return To Play format once the league can officially restart play.

Those cities include:

Chicago
Columbus
Dallas
Edmonton
Las Vegas
Los Angeles
Minneapolis/St. Paul
Pittsburgh
Toronto
Vancouver

Commissioner Bettman did say that a final decision on the two hub cities to host the conclusion of the 2019-20 season might not come for another 3-4 weeks, and that a final determination will depend on COVID-19 conditions, testing availability, and government regulations.

Major League Baseball (MLB)

There is no decision on how or when Major League Baseball will return. This is largely due to indecision on plans between the league and the players’ union. The latest proposal is for a 76-game season to begin in July and end in October. The issue seems to be cutting player salaries for the shortened season proposal which the MLBPA is rejecting. If the indecision continues, the 2020 season could be cancelled.

Major League Soccer (MLS)

The latest plans are that MLS teams will go to Orlando and play all the tournament games at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The teams would be divided into groups like at the World Cup and play three group stage matches, which will be added to the original two matches all teams played towards their regular season totals.

Then 16 teams would advance out of the ‘group stage’ into a 16-team knockout style tournament. The teams that didn’t advance would go home with the others moving through the round of 16, quarterfinals, semifinals and finally the championship. Only the group stage matches will be added to the season totals.

Obscure Sports Report

atlantaunited

Atlanta’s Major League Soccer (MLS) expansion team won their first game on Sunday when they blasted Minnesota 6-1 in a snow flurry in front of over 35,000 fans.  Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez scored a rare hat-trick while Miguel Almiron scored twice and Jacob Peterson scored once.  Atlanta dropped a 2-1 home opener to the New York Red Bulls a week ago in front of 55,000 fans.

The New England Black Wolves (5-6) became the first team in the Eastern Division to defeat the Georgia Swarm (7-3) on Sunday in the National Lacrosse League (NLL).   Shawn Evans and Kyle Buchanan each had three goals and four assists in a 13-8 win.  It was the fourth hat trick of the season for Evans.

Tony Spredeman of the United States is at the top of the World Foosball Player rankings.   He is first in Open Combined and Open Singles rankings.  He is also second in Open Doubles.   Spredeman is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and has won several World Championships.

The Baltimore Blast are looking at elimination from the Major Arena Soccer League (MASL) playoffs.  They were upset by the Harrisburg Heat 5-4 on Saturday in Baltimore.  The Milwaukee Wave edged the Kansas City Comets 3-2 when Marcio Leite scored the series winner 2:26 into overtime of the mini-game to win their series 2 games to 1 and advance to the MASL semifinals.   Sonora blasted Baja 17-3 in game two on Saturday to complete their sweep of the Southwest Division final.  In the Pacific Division, the San Diego Sockers beat Ontario 9-4 in the first game of their series, Ontario evened the series with an 8-4 win to force a mini-game.  The Sockers scored nine seconds into the tie-breaker and held on to advance to the league semifinals.

The Boston Pride finished the regular season in the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) with the best record at 16-1.  New York finished second at 8-7-3, Buffalo Beauts third (6-10-1) and the Connecticut Whale (5-12-1).  All four teams qualify for the Isobel Cup Playoffs which begins on Thursday and Friday.   Winners will advance to the final on Sunday, March 19th.

The DMV Warriors, based out of Woodlawn, Maryland, leads the American Basketball Association (ABA) power rankings with a record of 18-0.   The Jacksonville Giants (20-2), Orlando Waves (17-2), Austin Bats (15-1) and Mobile Bay Tornados (14-1) finish out the top five.   The league was founded in 1999 as a nationwide semi-pro basketball league.  The Jacksonville Giants are the defending league champions.

The Wichita Falls Nighthawks defeated the Cedar Rapids Titans this weekend, 42-23, to remain undefeated in the Indoor Football League (IFL).  Quarterback Charles McCullum finished the game completing 20 of 30 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns.  The Nighthawks will have the week off before they face the six-time defending United Bowl Champions, Sioux Falls Storm.

In the second week of playoffs in the Professional Rapid Online (PRO) Chess League, the stakes were huge as teams battled to advance to the quarterfinals.  Magnus Carlsen (Norway), Wesley So (St. Louis) and Fabiano Caruana (Montreal) were all in tight battles by lesser-known opponents.  Hikaru Nakamura (Miami) had one of the worst chess days of his life, scoring 1.5/4 and losing in a do-or-die final round.   In this week’s quarterfinal round:  Norway Gnomes vs. Gorky Stormbringers, Montclair Sopranos vs. Miami Champions, Marseille Migraines vs. Stockholm Snowballs and Webster Windmills vs. St. Louis Arch Bishops.

Have a sport you’d like me to write about next week?  Leave me a comment and I will post it next Wednesday.