It was a year ago that the world changed for the Boston Bruins, and for the rest of the hockey, and non-hockey, world as well.
The NBA and the NHL both hit the pause button on their regular seasons as COVID-19 quickly spun out of control, and everybody went into quarantine for months due to the global pandemic prior to the Stanley Cup playoffs starting months later in the warm summer months.
It’s been a long year of wearing masks, massive rises in unemployment, shutdowns to movie theatres, athletic venues, restaurants and so many other things that people enjoy and most importantly the half-million plus lives lost due to COVID-19. Happily, we seem to be nearing the end of the year-long tunnel of misery with a vaccine rollout and it’s an encouraging sign that small numbers of fans (roughly 2,100) will be allowed back at TD Garden in a couple of weeks.
All of this had Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney in a reflective mood while discussing current issues with his hockey club’s roster, all while recognizing it’s a privilege to even be playing NHL hockey right now. As Sweeney said to the media on Wednesday afternoon, the last year feels like it’s been in “dog years” due to all the challenges, difficulties and tragedies associated with COVID-19.
And the ramifications will be felt economically for years to come with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman now saying it’s likely going to be a flat salary cap for the next four seasons of the CBA extension agreement between the NHL and NHLPA.
“I can’t believe it’s only been a year because it feels like dog years, about 7-10 for all of us. You can imagine how the healthcare workers and first responders and people that are on the front lines of this whole pandemic have been,” said Sweeney. “When you think about operating with our league, we’re fortunate to be operating. That’s a testament to the players, the owners and the industry itself. When you think about, woe is me and complaining, you should just look around and realize what the entire world is up against and the fact that we’re able to function and still travel around and play, and players have the ability to play the sport they love at the business level.
“Hopefully we’re going to come out of this more successful at some point in time. It’s going to take a while to climb back up. But it’s been challenging. I think the fatigue and the road to not being able to do what you normally would do, even now, coming home with the added protocols of really trying to adhere to a really, really tight circle, it’s difficult. It’s difficult for everybody. I’m not going to put the National Hockey League and our players above the priorities of any other individual in North America or around the world, because I think we’re all sacrificing and realizing that this has been an incredible struggle and we’re fortunate. That’s the bottom line. You just have to look in the mirror and be fortunate for everybody’s health and safety and to be able to play [hockey].”
Clearly, it’s a luxury for fans to be able to grouse about the Boston Bruins need for a scorer or wonder why the Bruins can’t seem to beat the New York Islanders this compacted 56-game season. It means things are slowly starting to creep back to normalcy after a calendar year that absolutely nobody is going to forget for the rest of their lives.