The Summer of 2020 was supposed to be a momentous one for sports, with the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo and the UEFA Euro 2020, on top of the regularly scheduled NBA and MLB seasons. As an avid fan of both the Olympics and soccer, I was really looking forward to these events and had hyped up Summer 2020 a lot for myself. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, the 2020 Summer Olympics and the UEFA Euro 2020 were both cancelled. I didn’t realize how much I would miss watching televised sports until they were gone, and I found myself in a state of immense boredom during my summer in quarantine.
Thankfully, as the summer came to a close, the leaders of the world of sports had to come up with concrete solutions in order to allow sports to continue for the fall and winter seasons even during periods of quarantine. Because the conclusion of the NHL season had to be pushed back due to Covid-19 and the NBA season ran through the summer, they were two of the first organizations to experiment with new rules and measures to adapt to the situation at hand. The NHL, which was on the cusp of entering playoffs when quarantine began, was the first major sports organization to make a call on how the remainder of the season would look. Before the playoffs restarted, the league entered into what they called “Phase 3,” which essentially meant that teams would be returning to training programs in their cities. After “Phase 3” it was announced that the playoff would be played in bubbles, initiating “Phase 4.” Dr. Isaac Bogoch, who is an infectious disease expert, when asked about the NHL’s call to restart its playoff season in a bubble, stated that: “we’re starting to see the bubble approach –not only in hockey, but also in basketball and soccer, to be the best approach.”* When NHL teams entered into their bubbles, there were zero positive tests, ensuring that players were safe to restart the season.
The NBA also took to the bubble approach, and like the NHL, it consisted of hundreds of players contained in the same place, isolated, for about three months. The NBA bubble was located at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, and teams arrived at the bubble on July 7th, with the season resuming on July 30th.** Those allowed inside the bubble were the players, coaches, and team personnel. No non-essential individuals were allowed inside the bubble, and COVID-19 testing was performed regularly. With these measures in place, it was ensured that no one involved in the NBA season would be at risk of developing COVID-19, and the season could carry on even during the pandemic.
The outbreak of Covid-19 and the adaptations that the various sports leagues had to endure caused a lot of changes for the players. In the NHL, daily testing became the norm for many teams in order to ensure that the bubble of players, coaches, and staff remained healthy. Edmonton was the city in which the Western Conference bubble, consisting of 12 teams, was held. There were about 900 individuals who made up the bubble in Edmonton and, during the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, which took place in the late summer, tests had to be administered every single day.*** This can be extremely costly for the league, as well as the city in which the bubble was held. The daily process of waiting in line and getting tested was also quite taxing on players; however, Derek Stepan, of the Arizona Coyotes, stated that “they’ve done a really good job of making it convenient for the players… I wouldn’t say it’s been an inconvenience at all. It’s just kind of the world we live in.”**** Evidently some players haven’t minded the extra steps needed in order to maintain safety within the bubble, but it does raise the question of whether or not all this trouble is worth it.
I have always loved watching sports, especially with my dad. It’s been a father-daughter bonding activity since I was young, but with the outbreak of Covid-19, I have started to question whether or not the continuation of sports is a good idea. This question has been driven by the fact that being a fan in the time of Covid-19 is also a very different experience. No fans are able to watch games in person, meaning that stadiums are now silent and empty, no longer packed with screaming fans. Another element that is lost is the camaraderie and celebrations that occur after a home-team victory. As a Torontonian, I fondly remember celebrating after the Raptors won the NBA champion, and as a proud Manchester City fan I went to a pub with my uncle and grandfather following their domestic treble win. Now, with the outbreak of Covid-19 these sports-related celebrations are limited; thus, I have found myself growing distant from my love of sports, as the social aspect is one of the most special parts of being a sports fan.
*Nicholas J. Cotsonika. “NHL Postseason Bubbles Successful Because ‘Everybody Bought into This’.” NHL.com, NHL.com, 29 Sept. 2020.
**Tadd Haislop. “NBA Bubble, Explained: A Complete Guide to the Rules, Teams, Schedule & More for Orlando Games.” Sporting News Canada, 26 Aug. 2020.
***Tom Gatto. “NHL Bubble, Explained: A Guide to the Hub City Rules, Teams & Schedule for Edmonton, Toronto.” Sporting News, (Getty Images), 14 Aug. 2020.
****Tom Gulitti. “Players Happy with Organization, Convenience of COVID Testing in Bubble.” NHL.com, NHL.com, 30 July 2020.
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