It’s been four days since the NHL joined other professional, minor, and college sports leagues and paused its 2019-20 season. As the days have passed, people in all facets of the sports community have been trying to come to terms with the sudden ceasing of sports. That includes Dallas Stars fans.
I’m currently sitting on my couch. It’s around 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 15. In other words, it’s been about four days since the NHL paused its 2019-20 season due to the coronavirus outbreak, thus halting the Thursday night showdown that was supposed to happen between the Dallas Stars and Florida Panthers as well as all other games for the foreseeable future.
There’s a light rain falling outside, I’m listening to Christmas music (weird, I know), and I’m just now ending a four-day hiatus from my laptop. This hiatus has not been because I didn’t want to say anything, though; instead, it’s because I didn’t know exactly what to say or how to say it. So, let’s just try and start from the beginning here.
Hey. It’s me again.
It’s been a little while since I properly fulfilled the duties of editor (or have even been a consistent contributor) here at Blackout Dallas, and that’s due to a few reasons. And since many of the followers and readers on this site have been with me since April 6, 2014 (or shortly thereafter) when my journey began, allow me to catch you up on my life (if you don’t already know about it).
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If you didn’t already know, I’ve been through a pretty crazy past 10 months. I graduated from Mississippi College with a degree in sports media in May, just one month after celebrating my five-year anniversary here at Blackout Dallas.
Three days after grabbing my diploma, I started a social media job at FOX Sports Southwest. I was helping cover the Texas Rangers at that point (since they were our only in-season team) and was trying to get comfortable with “adult life” for the time being. Shortly after, I was told that I would also be overseeing our Dallas Stars content moving forward, which was fine by me (my boss even labeled me as “a unicorn” due to my hockey knowledge as a native Texan).
One month later, I was contacted by NHL.com and asked if I had any interest in applying to be the Dallas Correspondent for the site. After getting over the shock and surreality of the offer, I accepted and took on a new level of Dallas Stars coverage. Obviously, this came at the expense of writing 50 stories a month here at Blackout Dallas, though I’ve tried to pop in at least 3-5 times in each of the past few months.
But that’s enough about me. Let’s talk about the current state of the NHL, professional and college sports, and our entire world as a whole.
It’s been nearly one week since the sports world as we’ve known it practically since its inception came to a screeching halt. But if you refresh your Twitter feed or any other social media platform, you might think it’s been years. There’s a reason for that.
On Wednesday evening, just minutes before tip-off between the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Okla., results came in that Jazz forward Rudy Gobert tested preliminarily positive for COVID-19. I’m nowhere close to a scientist, but I’m sure I don’t need to explain the virus because you probably already know plenty about it.
Unfortunately, that was the moment that it became “real” for a lot of people. What’s even more unfortunate is that even the suspension of one of the largest collective industries in the world still wasn’t enough to make it real for some.
Regardless of how you may view the current situation, it’s crystal clear and obvious that we are in the midst of uncertain, serious times right now.
This is a pandemic that we are talking about. Entire countries have gone on lockdown. Traveling to and from certain parts of the world has been banned. Stores cannot restock their shelves quickly enough for the next wave of shoppers preparing for quarantine. Social distancing is being heavily encouraged. Restaurants, bars, and other places of mass gathering are being shutdown across the United States.
To top it all off, competitive sports at all levels have essentially shut down for the foreseeable future.
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It’s a trying time for all in the sports community, but also a reminder of the severity of this situation.
I was at a rec league softball game on Wednesday night with a handful of friends and work colleagues, some of which work for the Dallas Stars. Once we heard the news about the NBA, everyone took to their phones to try and figure out what would be happening next.
Would the NHL pause or suspend its season? Would there be an eventual cancellation? How would this leave the NHL landscape looking? Who all would be affected?
Pausing seemed like the only viable option. And while no stone was left unturned in making the correct decision, the choice no doubt had a trickle-down effect throughout sports.
Game-night staff (such as security, vendors, and ushers) at arenas and stadiums across North American that rely on each game as their primary source of income seemed to be in a tight spot. Fortunately, players, owners, and teams have taken to donating to the cause and pledging to pay their staffs through what was supposed to be the end of the regular season.
Meanwhile, many in sports media are struggling. Writers and content creators, especially those on a freelance or intern basis, are now trying to figure out where their next paycheck is coming from. With no games to write about or clip highlights from and no new stats/storylines to make graphics about, there is an eerie silence in the sports world that they must adjust to.
People in sales are now in contact with advertisers, many of whom are wondering if they will get money back after paying for 82 games worth of advertisements. Directors, producers, audio engineers, camera operators and photogs, graphics operators, anchors, and those in social and digital are trying to figure out their next step. With no new content to cover, what is there to do?
Employees of teams have now been asked to avoid the office and work from home. Changing their daily routine is no easy task.
What all of these people do for a living simply cannot be done at the time being (at least in a normal capacity), and that’s strange.
Please make sure to check in on any of your friends, relatives, or acquaintances that work in sports. This is a weird time for everyone in the sports world, and an undeniably difficult one for many.
But back to the current status of things. The Dallas Stars, along with the rest of the NHL and AHL, are under self-quarantine. They are remaining at their homes with an opportunity to travel to their actual home if allowed under the current restrictions. They are unable to go to team facilities and work out or skate for the time being. They are just as confused as sports fans, though the fact that this is bigger than hockey is already well-known by all.
The CDC made the official recommendation on Sunday for no gatherings of 50 or more people to take place over the next eight weeks. Two teams of 20-23 players, 2-4 coaches, and a variety of equipment managers and trainers adds up to well over 50 people, so that could potentially rule out NHL action until at least mid-May.
If the NHL decides to cap the regular season and begin the Stanley Cup Playoffs upon getting the green light to resume play, the Dallas Stars would enter as third place in the Central Division and take on the Colorado Avalanche in the first round. That would be a welcomed sight for all Stars fans.
Regardless of when or if the season starts back up, each NHL team will have plenty of time to assess their current state and try to game plan for the short and long term future.
But all of that is still to be determined, so there’s no point in speculating right now.
For now, however, there’s a bigger worry at hand: staying healthy and staying safe.
Not having sports around brings confusion, frustration, and uncertainty for a lot of people. Sports are supposed to be a common uniter. They bring everyone together and help you forget about all of the negativity in the world for a few hours. Without them, what else is there?
That Balls Outta Here
Considering I no longer have any games to write about for NHL.com, I’ll try and start digging into some unique content here at Blackout Dallas. It might not be consistent and some of it may seem like a stretch, but it will definitely be unique. I’ll still be doing stuff for FSSW (and you’ll know exactly what in the coming days), so stay tuned to their social media profiles as well.
But for now, it’s a chance to refocus and take things step-by-step. If you’re confined to your house or apartment, take this time to reconnect with your family. Every moment can be a precious one if you make it that way. If you live alone, stay in touch with friends and try to stay as connected as possible. Wash your hands, clean your house, and try to avoid unnecessary close contact with others.
In addition, take a moment to be thankful. For what, might you ask? For being alive. For being healthy. For friends and family. For the world of sports and all of the joy it provides.
After saying, “I don’t know” an unthinkable number of times over the past few days when responding to friends, family, and colleagues that asked when this might all end and what my life in particular would look like, I have since reverted to using another phrase. I have to give partial credit to my friend, Ann (who works in the sports world up at OU), for the inception of this phrase:
Find the positives.
Wherever you are in life right now and whatever you may be dealing with, make sure to find the positives. Sports are paused, but it’s not for good. They will be back soon along with all of the good that they have provided for you over the years. Keep your focus on that which is positive in an unprecedented time.
But for now, we’re all in this together. So, wash those hands, stay safe, and do everything you can to contribute to a solution for this pandemic. I’m going to try and learn to play the ukulele.