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Five Thoughts for a Friday

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Dystopia 2020 featuring Mark Borowiecki and the Coyotes

Ottawa Senators v Arizona Coyotes Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images

I like to think that last week I delivered five thoughts that were pretty upbeat, sentimental, and net Sens-positive. So it stands to reason that this week’s five thoughts came out a bit darker. I want to warn you, beloved reader, in advance. Any good will I may have earned last week probably won’t last through the next thousand words. Alas, tomorrow you get to watch actual, meaningful, NHL hockey with consequences, so I won’t apologize if today’s five thoughts kind of bum you out. Like the old saying goes, it’s always the biggest bummer before the hockey starts.

On Passing the First Hurdle

To my disbelief and to the credit of the NHL, playoff hockey awaits within hours and no players or staff have tested positive for COVID. While I spend a fair amount of time criticizing the league and questioning their motives, I can’t overstate the logistical feat they have pulled off. That being said, we’ve seen in countries around the world in recent weeks what happens when groups develop a premature sense of security about this virus. As soon as leadership rolls back preventative measures, cases tend to creep back up. While the NHL has already achieved the unlikely, they now need to hold fast to keep their ship afloat. Without the proper protocols in place, MLB has already faced major setbacks that have threatened the feasibility of their season. They NHL have to appreciate the huge head start they’ve given themselves and not squander that with complacency.

On Sympathy in the Desert

As the drama continues to unfold around the Coyotes organization, I can’t help but feel for the fans in Arizona. I feel like as a knee-jerk reaction so many hockey fans would immediately make a “what fans in Arizona” joke and that’s just my point. When you support an expansion team, you hear the same jabs over and over about attendance and free agency and vagrancy. When you don’t have the luxury of five-plus decades of history, the fabric of team identity unravels more easily and rival fanbases love to stick their fingers in there. It shouldn’t be so easy for one or two executives to dismantle in weeks what teams build for years and I don’t know if that’s a shortfall of the professional sports model or just a reality of the free market but either way, here we are. I hope Coyotes fans get to enjoy their throwback Kachina jerseys, years of Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and, more than anything, a prosperous future in the desert.

On the Foundation

So remember back on June 4th when the Senators organization and its charitable arm announced that they would part ways? Well, tomorrow the former Ottawa Senators Foundation will become the Ottawa-Gatineau Youth Foundation and the Ottawa Senators will—[crickets]. Now I know the Senators have been really busy over the past two months. First they released a really tonedeaf statement and then they did no campaigning whatsoever to get Alfie into the Hall of Fame and then we watched some ping pong balls. Simply a whirlwind of activity. And while I can appreciate that it takes time to formally establish or partner with a new charitable organization, the Senators organization’s silence right now is deafening. Healthcare, child care, and food security are as big of issues in Ottawa now as they’ll ever be, due to the pandemic. Given the fact that the organization exists because people from this city watch the games and buy concessions, I think it’s perfectly reasonable for the folks in this city to expect some sort of transparency from the team regarding the status of its charitable arm as the new era commences tomorrow.

On Missing Mark

As known Senators Insider and Knowledge Haver Steve informed the public this week, Mark Borowiecki seems to have de-branded his socials away from the Senators. Now this is absolute conjecture and in no way actual news and I want to make that perfectly clear. However, with all the moving pieces about the Sens right now and all the uncertainty around the next NHL season in general, I won’t hold my breath for a Borocop reunion with the Sens when the team next takes the ice at the CTC. Again, this isn’t news, but Boro may have played his last game as a Senator on February 13th, 2020. I’ve written about Borocop in previous five thoughts so I won’t say much more than A) I think from a purely numerical perspective it makes most sense for the team and the player to part ways and B) from a sentimental perspective it’s a heartbreaking departure. I can’t reconcile those two things so again acknowledging that we don’t know how this will play out and we can’t control it either way, I want to thank Boro for teaching me such a valuable lesson. It’s easy for nerds like me to dismiss players based on numbers. It’s much more important to look at the person and realize I dismissed them too soon. We don’t just watch for the stats. We watch for the stories. And for reminding me of that essential truth, I say: thank you, Mark.

On Missing the Mark

When the NHL resumed play this week for some exhibition games, many of us waited with great trepidation to see what kind of cringe-worthy attempt the league and the players would muster to address some of the more pressing social issues that have gotten more attention in the absence of sports. And while I expected the worst, the displays coming out of professional hockey still had me shaking my head. Hockey culture never ceases to amaze me. I had originally intended to do a summary and criticism of the displays for this article. However, a lot of better writers have tackled the subject and analysis so I shall defer. You can find a good summary and analysis here.

So instead of beating that dead horse, I want to take this opportunity to say that while it’s okay to pivot our attention back to sports and it’s okay to enjoy watching sports in a time when so many people are suffering, we must always bear in mind what it means to have the choice to watch sports as an escape. If you need sports in your life to help you unwind or to get away from it all then realize that you are in a position of privilege to have that choice, and that the majority of people don’t get to escape or distract themselves. This is still a hockey blog so of course I want our readers to watch hockey and have fun doing so. A lot of people are still hurting right now though and while it’s a good start that more people acknowledged that during the shutdown, we can’t forget about those people now that sports are back. Please don’t conflate escapism with apathy. If over the last three or four months you found yourself self-educating and giving back, then don’t stop now simply because some of the biggest shareholders have decided everyone has to go back to work — athletes included. COVID-19 hasn’t gone away. Black Lives still Matter. Our society is at a tipping point. Professional sports are a luxury and part of enjoying that luxury is knowing that you are in a privileged position and that we have a responsibility to educate ourselves and take care of each other. Let’s keep striving for better.