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SIMMONS: It's time for NHL to be honest and cancel its season

In this file photo taken Sept. 17, 2012, the NHL logo is seen on a goal at a Nashville Predators practice rink in Nashville, Tenn.
In this file photo taken Sept. 17, 2012, the NHL logo is seen on a goal at a Nashville Predators practice rink in Nashville, Tenn.

Why is it taking the National Hockey League so long to cancel its season and the Stanley Cup playoffs?

They aren’t happening anytime soon. Really, they aren’t happening at all.

Wimbledon has been cancelled. The Tokyo Olympics of July and August have been postponed. The British Open is off. The Masters is off. We’re all supposed to be indoors and at home.

But day after day you still hear deputy commissioner Bill Daly talk about plans for completing the season and squeezing in the playoffs. There’s no reality to what he’s saying. How can there be?

There may, however, be some financial motivation to keep hope alive. By not officially cancelling games, the league’s teams are under no obligation to return ticket money. And in large markets, this year’s money will certainly be applied to next year’s season tickets. But that doesn’t help the individual ticket holder, who put out good money for a single game that isn’t going to be played.

There’s also a television revenue side of the equation in all this. By announcing the cancellation of the season, advertisers will be due refunds of some kind and quite likely television networks will be compensated for games they purchased that won’t be played.

To date, the NHL has put on a happy face with delusional plans to play out its playoffs, if not its season. It sounds like a whole lot of fantasy talk from here.

THIS AND THAT

Just what the commissioners of sports leagues needed: Advice from Donald Trump. My advice: hang up the phone … Can’t imagine there will be an NBA playoffs. Just don’t see how that can be worked out. And if there’s any major league baseball before August or September, I’ll be shocked … I worry about how’s women’s professional hockey might be impacted by COVID-19. If the NHL is down $500 or so million without finishing the season or having a playoffs, how willing is the league going to be to pump money into the women’s game? … And I worry there may not be a CFL season at all … The racist taunts on New York Rangers’ K’Andre Miller’s online chat with fans is not an NHL issue, a hockey issue, or a sporting issue — it’s a societal issue. It’s a gutless social media issue. It’s ignorance at its extreme and it’s cowardly that hate is happening far too often in far too many venues far too easily … How much did the Maple Leafs drop from one season to the next? Last year after 70 games they were fourth in the NHL. This year, tied for 12th overall … Since Jan. 1, 2019, Jordan Binnington has started 105 games for the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues. His record in that time: A rather stunning 70-27-8 … I know a lot of people who can’t wait to watch live sports on television. I wonder, though, how many will be comfortable with the stadium experience post coronavirus … The first 15 minutes of the television series Brockmire might be the funniest 15 minutes in television history. The rest of the series, meh.

HEAR AND THERE

I texted Raptors GM Bobby Webster to ask about the apparent interest the Chicago Bulls have in his services. He didn’t return the text. He hasn’t returned phone messages from other reporters I know. The interpretation on this: If he wasn’t interested in the Bulls, he’d quickly say so. Not interested. By saying nothing, he wants to hear what Chicago has to offer or at least use it for a bump in pay with the Raptors … A few years ago, the Raptors lost GM Jeff Weltman to the Orlando Magic. That’s when they promoted Webster to GM. President Masai Ujiri has a way of having the successors ready before he needs to use them. Those close to the team figure if Webster leaves for Chicago, assistant GM Dan Tolzman, a real front office gem, gets elevated to general manager … Basically assume the basketball season is over. So Webster may or may not be on the move and the Raptors, meaning chairman Larry Tanenbaum, have to get a deal done with Ujiri, and Ujiri needs to get a deal done with coach Nick Nurse. Complicated times … It’s sad after so many inconsequential Raptors seasons that this season might end early. This season, with this team, with Kyle Lowry 34 years old and playing the best basketball of his life, with Marc Gasol, Fred VanVleet and Serge Ibaka all becoming free agents, this is a real opportunity denied. How do you keep the team together and can you? … Little things can get lost in big wins. No one will ever forget the Kawhi Leonard bouncing shot to win Game 7 against Philadelphia. That’s a moment in time. But go back about a minute. If Lowry doesn’t make a sensational defensive play against Joel Embiid — a 6-footer covering a 7-footer — they probably don’t win the game and the championship run never happens … The best part about watching the Raptors playoff games again from last season: Not having to write on tight deadlines from late starts. You can actually take in the game, all of it, let it breathe, without the inherent pressure of writing against the clock.

SCENE AND HEARD

From a purely personal list, the best players from the major sports to never win a championships: From baseball, Ernie Banks, Ichiro Suzuki, Carl Yastrzemski, Ted Williams and Ken Griffey Jr.; From football, Dan Marino, Fran Tarkenton and Bruce Smith; From hockey, Marcel Dionne, Joe Thornton and Eric Lindros; From basketball, Steve Nash, Charles Barkley and Allen Iverson … From my go-to list of rather old movies worth showing the family, age dependent of course: My Cousin Vinny; Rain Man, Shawshank Redemption; Stand By Me; Caddyshack; ET; The Princess Bride; Back to the Future; Rudy and then depending on age, political correctness and sensibilities, Blazing Saddles … All my adult life I wanted to be like my friend Paul Beeston. And now I’m into Week 3 without socks, which is about as close as I’ll ever get to Beeston … On Matt Bonner’s 40th birthday, I walked past the local Mr. Sub and it was closed, even for takeout and I thought of Matt and how much I wanted an assorted for lunch … Two things I’m missing daily on television: Overdrive and Bob McCown. One still on radio, one not … Maybe I’ve been home too long but I’m really impressed with the leadership and demeanour Doug Ford has displayed as premier of Ontario. Didn’t see that coming … If you haven’t seen the clip online of the late Bill Withers, the song Lean On Me, and USC football with coach Pete Carroll, go find it. It will give you a smile when we all need one … Happy Passover for all who celebrate, and these will be the smallest family gatherings ever. And a whole lot of Zoom going house to house.

AND ANOTHER THING

Now this is unusual, Part 1: Jameis Winston, Cam Newton and Jadeveon Clowney were all selected first overall in the NFL Draft and right now all three are free agents … Years ago, if Winston or Newton were available and nobody was chasing them, couldn’t you see Mike McCarthy or Leo Cahill trying to make them Argos? … This is unusual, Part 2: Canadians Chase Claypool and Neville Gallimore are expected to be drafted in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft, more likely the second round than the first … Stick tap to Patriots owner Robert Kraft for sending the New England team plane to pick up masks from China that Americans are in desperate need of … If voting is actually held this season in the NHL, only one Leaf will get any consideration at all: Auston Matthews for the Lady Byng. He won’t win the award, if there is one. He might be a finalist. The Bruins meanwhile have candidates for the Vezina, Hart, Selke, as well as coach of the year and GM of the year. The Lightning will get votes for Vezina, Selke, Lady Byng and Norris, among others … Happy birthday to Dale Hawerchuk (57), Roberto Luongo (41), Yanic Perreault (49), Kevin Weekes (45), Doug Favell (75), Bo Horvat (25), Scott Rolen (45), Cris Carpenter (55), Oliver Luck (60), John Kalbhenn (57) and Diamond Dallas Page (64) … And hey, whatever became of Lyle Overbay?

BUSTER’S BIRTHDAY

What if you had one perfect day in your life, where everything worked for you, where you did things you’d never managed before, where you stood taller and stronger and bolder than you’ve ever been?

It sounds like a movie or a television script but it was real for James (Buster) Douglas, who turns 60 on Tuesday. It was real in the ring at the Tokyo Dome on Feb. 11, 1990, when he didn’t just knock out Mike Tyson in Round 10. He ended the Tyson aura and era of invincibility and Tyson was never the same after being exposed by Douglas.

And Douglas was also never the same again.

His resume, really, is one remarkable victory — his part in maybe the greatest heavyweight fight of the past 30 years. One fabulous victory followed by one embarrassing defeat.

Douglas, using his jab, using his reach, utilizing his boxing skills, took apart the previously unbeaten and 42-1 favourite Tyson. In his first and only title defence, as heavyweight champion, he came in ill-prepared and overweight and was beaten in three rounds by Evander Holyfield.

Douglas never had another meaningful fight after the Holyfield debacle. But that one night in 1990, the night he undressed Tyson, that was magic.

BASKETBALL HONOURS

I’ve never quite understood the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Who gets in? How they get in? How many get in?

The email arrived Saturday informing me that Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett have been elected to the Hall of Fame and my first thought was: What an amazing class. Maybe as great a class as there’s ever been.

And then I kept reading the email. And I saw that college coach Eddie Sutton and NBA coach and former player Rudy Tomjanovich have been elected in the 2020 Class. And it’s not just them. It’s Tamika Catchings, the four-time Olympic gold-medal winner; it’s Barbara Stevens, and as a five-time Division II coach of the year, I must admit I’d never heard of her before. And the final name on the list is longtime FIBA executive Patrick Baumann, another from the probably deserving who’s he list, who nobody really knows.

In August, all nine of those elected — yep, nine — will be inducted, assuming, of course, there is any kind of ceremonies behind held as early as August. But I do wonder why the NBA doesn’t have its own Hall of Fame — strictly for its players, its coaches, its executives.

A class with the late Bryant, and the legends Duncan and Garnett, would be mandatory viewing. There’s no need to explain who they are or what they accomplished. Electing nine from all over seems overdone and confusing.

NFL DRAFT WOES

Commissioner Roger Goodell is taking all kinds of heat — which is par the course in his world — for staying with the National Football League Draft on April 23-25.

And in this case, and not very often, I agree with that the NFL is doing.

I think you can run a draft without doing it publicly, without endangering anyone, using conference calls or Skype or Zoom or some form of online communication. And at the same time, providing a small degree of sports entertainment — of which we are completely lacking — for those missing their daily fix.

The NFL draft normally is a show, a big show: An arena full, people screaming, Goodell on stage announcing the picks, followed by a hug or a handshake or both. This is how long a round of the NFL draft normally takes: One time I left my home in Toronto and drove to Detroit for a Leafs game and I left after the first few picks of the first round had been made. By the time I got into my hotel room, the round was just coming to an end.

It’s a lot of nothing that people lap up — especially Americans. But they watch it. And year after year, teams are in their war rooms, working phones, communicating with themselves and with other teams. Now the war room would change. Modern communication can easily connect the important voices together for one room to work.

The picks can either be made by the teams through some form of network communication without the commissioner. Or they could be made with the commissioner and no players present. all you need is a phone. And ESPN, which has panels all day every day, will have its panels more spread out to discuss the picks being made.

I don’t think it’s disrespectful of the NFL in these difficult times to provide a few days of entertainment for sports fans who aren’t getting any. I don’t see that as tone deaf. Is it tone deaf to sit at home and watch Ozark and be entertained? Why not the NFL draft?

ssimmons@postmedia.com

twitter.com/simmonssteve

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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1 being least likely, and 10 being most likely

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