Local teams like the Cowichan Valley Capitals in the B.C. Hockey League will need fans in the seats to help pay the bills. (Photo by Kevin Rothbauer/Cowichan Valley Citizen)

EDITORIAL Pro sports return diverts attention from COVID

Hockey in August has turned out to be very exciting

The return of professional sports has actually been quite refreshing for those who care to help alleviate some of that pandemic panic.

While Major League Baseball has struggled with some COVID cases, both the National Hockey League and National Basketball Association have thrived in their respective bubbles.

One of the problems for baseball has not been having a bubble. Continuing with travel has obviously been an issue and opens up the possibility of spreading the virus.

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Hockey is in the strangest territory because games have never been played in August before. But the quality of play and intensity has been surprisingly high after the long layoff when the season got delayed in March.

Going straight into the Stanley Cup playoffs brought an immediate urgency to the games and the skill level looks every bit as good as the mid-season.

If the Vancouver Canucks happen to make a longer run in the playoffs, it will bring more attention and give local supporters something to rally around in these troubling times.

It’s still very weird to watch the games on television and realize there are no fans in attendance. Hockey’s addition of crowd noise and all the blaring sounds after goals are scored, combined with flashing graphics on screens lowered in the building to cover all those empty seats, has worked well in what would otherwise have been a vacuum.

Basketball has instituted virtual fans that look very odd, but effectively closes up the size of the court and cardboard cutouts are filling some of the void for baseball.

Some of these unusual measures are obviously keeping the three major sports going for the time being and it’ll be interesting to see what the National Football League will do with its season set to start in September.

The huge TV revenue and ad dollars coming in will keep the leagues afloat, but operating in the long run without any changes to COVID will be a different story.

The Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League, the B.C. Hockey League and the Western Hockey League on the local level cannot function without fans to help pay the bills. That’s where the big crunch will come for hockey and some magic formula is needed to keep everyone safe and generate revenue so teams can play.

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