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Five Thoughts For Friday

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Player safety, the HHOF, and the Draft Lottery!

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2017 Scotiabank NHL100 Classic - Ottawa Senators Red-White Alumni Game Photo Minas Panagiotakis/NHLI via Getty Images

It’s Friday, and you know what that means! Here are some thoughts. Five of them.

The Return to Play Disaster

Every single bit of news that comes out about the NHL’s plan to resume play for the 2019-20 season makes it more obvious that this year’s playoffs are headed for disaster.

Eleven players have already tested positive - three of them on the same team. We don’t know how many staff members have the virus. While Canada seems to be getting things under control, the USA is trending in the opposite direction, with recent data suggesting that the outbreak is even worse right now than it was a few months ago when sports first shut down. The teams that had players test positive are still practicing, despite the fact that anyone who comes into contact with someone who tested positive should be self isolating for 2 weeks, not continuing to interact with their teammates. This virus is going to spread through the NHL, and people are probably going to die or come out of it with serious, long-term injuries, whether those people are players or staff or family members.

Hockey is not worth this. I’m sorry, maybe I’m biased because my team isn’t in the playoffs and I’m just coming back from a year away from hockey, but I cannot imagine being able to enjoy the games while I’m worried for the players, the staff, and their families. Not to mention that a lot of players are going to have to sit the playoffs out if they test positive for COVID, meaning that the tournament will likely come down to which team manages to stay healthy. We already know that the Leafs, for instance, are losing their star player. I know that injuries always play a role in hockey, but not to this extent. There’s really no way we can award the Stanley Cup this year and have it feel legitimate.

The NHL’s insistence on continuing with the season is an extremely irresponsible one, but I guess it just reinforces what we’ve known for a long time, which is that this league does not care about the health of its players and will continue to put them at risk for our entertainment, whether that risk comes in the form of concussions, other physical injuries, or a deadly virus.

The CHL and hockey culture

Well, that leads pretty nicely into my next topic, which is also about hockey not caring about its players!

Last week, former CHL players Dan Carcillo and Garrett Taylor filed a lawsuit against the CHL, claiming that the league had enabled, failed to address, and even encouraged truly horrific abuses of players under the guise of “hazing.” I’ll link to the lawsuit for anyone who hasn’t read it yet, but I’m going to add that there should be every trigger warning imaginable before it. Please proceed with extreme caution.

Other players have spoken up about this same issue in the past, so it’s not exactly new information, but it’s concerning to me that only a week after the story broke, the hockey world seems to have already moved on from it.

It’s very clear that this is a systemic issue within hockey culture, and it’s very concerning that players in their teens and early twenties - players who haven’t even started their professional careers - seem to be the main victims of it. We need a complete overhaul of hockey culture, and specifically, we need policies in place that protect the players and prevent things like these from happening.

It’s even worth wondering if Junior hockey itself is a problem. Most sports leagues rely on college sports for recruitment, and while that isn’t a perfect system, you have to think it’s better than Junior hockey.

Congrats to the 2020 HHOF inductees!

As I’m sure many of you have already read, the Hockey Hall of Fame recently announced its inductees for 2020: Jarome Iginla, Marian Hossa, Kevin Lowe, Doug Wilson, Kim St. Pierre, and Ken Holland.

There are a lot of big names on that list, and of course the one that’s most likely to stand out to Sens fans is Marian Hossa, who played seven seasons in Ottawa before being traded. I’ll admit I’m too young to remember Hossa as a Senator, but even I know that this nomination was well-deserved. As a Sens fan - and as a hockey fan - I’m thrilled to see him recognized in this way.

Also noteworthy is Jarome Iginla, who of course had a fantastic NHL career, was the heart and soul of the Flames during his time in Calgary, and did great things for the Canadian Olympic team, including an assist on Sidney Crosby’s golden goal in 2010.

However, as much as I think Iginla deserves this, his being inducted into the HHOF raises a lot of questions about why Daniel Alfredsson was not on the list, especially since the two players are very comparable. Maybe it’s my Sens fan bias showing here, but Alfie set many franchise records in Ottawa, put up a very impressive stat line during the dead puck era, won a gold medal for Sweden, and did amazing things for the Ottawa community. I’m sure he’ll make it into the Hall of Fame eventually, but I was really hoping it would happen this year.

(It also would have been nice if Bryan Murray had made it in)

(Also, don’t the Sens have their own ring of honour? What happened to that?)

The NHL Hall of Fame

While we’re on the topic of who didn’t make it into the Hockey Hall of Fame, we should also talk about Julie Chu, who was eligible this year and did not get inducted. Chu, of course, became the first Asian-American to make the US senior national team at just 18 years old, and went on to medal in four different Olympics and was a finalist in nine Women’s World Hockey Championships, winning five of them. In the CWHL, she became the first player to win the Clarkson Cup with two different teams in 2011. She also has two very cute babies. Basically, Chu is a trailblazer and should be guaranteed a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

I know that there are always going to be snubs when only six people can be inducted every year, so I’m not that upset about who didn’t make it in, but I still think it’s worth talking about the HHOF’s bias against female players.

Kim St. Pierre became the first female goaltender to be inducted this year, and only the eighth woman, which is great for her but kind of a damning indictment of the HHOF. Women’s hockey has made incredible strides over the last few decades, and a lot of incredible players have been instrumental in creating that growth. It’s only fair that they be recognized for what they’ve done for the game of hockey.

The Hall of Fame can only induct a maximum of two female players per year, and there’s absolutely no reason for that rule to exist. They don’t need to use more than two slots for women every year, but they should at least have the option of doing so.

Also, where are the members of the Colored Hockey League?

It’s the Hockey Hall of Fame. Not the NHL Hall of Fame.

Draft Lottery

Finally, there’s an exciting thing happening tonight!

While we still don’t have a date for the actual draft, the lottery is happening tonight at 8pm ET, and the Sens are guaranteed two picks in the top 6, with a very good chance of getting in the top 3 - Ottawa finished second last, and San Jose finished third last (the Sens own their pick), so only Detroit has a better shot at the first overall pick. I’m not much of an optimist when it comes to this team, but it is entirely possible that the Sens could end up with the top two picks.

The Lottery is extremely confusing this year, of course. You can read a more detailed breakdown of the odds right here, but basically, all seven of the teams have have been eliminated from playoff contention will take part, as will the fifteen teams that lose in the qualifying round of the playoffs. Since the qualifying round hasn’t been played yet, we don’t know which teams will take part in the lottery, so the NHL will be calling them Team A, Team B, Team C, etc, for the time being.

Since this is a pretty exciting event for Sens fans, my good friend Matty is hosting a watch party over zoom with a bunch of Sens Twitter people, including me. If you’re interested in joining, just shoot Matty a DM on Twitter, and he’ll send you the link.

The watch party is starting at 7pm ET, so an hour before the draft. I hope to see some of you there!