Everything fell apart in March.
As the spread of the coronavirus progressed from an outbreak into an ongoing global pandemic, collegiate and professional sports across North America had little choice but to put a hold on play.
The NCAA had to cut its losses and cancel the spring and remainder of the winter sports seasons outright, while the major professional leagues (the NBA, NFL, NHL, Major League Baseball, and Major League Soccer) and their respective players unions have all been trying to find a safe and reasonable way to come back and try to salvage what’s either left of their seasons or the ones that are about to kickoff.
There’s been a ton of ideas thrown out there -- condensed playoffs, hub cities, bubbles, empty stadiums, and so on -- and plans at various points of progress. But all of them still have plenty of hurdles ahead of them.
The Inquirer has produced a ‘Ticket to a Return’ series that aims to keep you up to speed on how close each sport is to returning, and now they’ve been rounded up here into one place.
Status: The NHL and NHLPA agreed on a plan, and team facilites opened backed up to allow small group workouts and for players to start skating again. A 24-team return-to-play-format was put in place, the league just needs to find two hub cities to host it. But news broke Friday that three Tampa Bay Lightning players, two staff members, and Toronto Maple Leafs star center Auston Matthews tested positive for the virus. It’s unknown how much that will affect the current plans.
Expected Start: August, training camps on July 10
Status: The NBA and its players agreed to resume the season using the Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando’s Walt Disney World. 22 teams in or within grasp of a playoff position will have eight “seeding games” to determine the final playoff bracket, and the postseason will go from there.
But given the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests across the U.S. and the globe, some players, Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving the most prominent among them, are debating whether it’s even the right thing to go back and play right now.
Expected Start: July 31
Status: Baseball is (finally) back! After MLB’s contentious, prolonged negotiations, commissioner Rob Manfred announced Tuesday that the league anticipates opening the season in approximately one month. Players will report for training by July 1. It will be marked as baseball’s shortest season since 1878.
Expected Start: July 23 or July 24
Status: The league held a virtual draft in April and had to scrap rookie camps and OTAs as team facilities had to remain closed. However, the NFL is, as of right now, still planning to go on with training camp in July and Week 1 of the regular season as planned. That said, the chances of that happening are looking more and more unlikely the deeper into summer we get, especially following Dr. Fauci’s comments on Thursday.
Expected Start: Sept. 10-13 for Week 1, training camps at the end of July.
MLS will also be using Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex to salvage its season with a league-wide tournament beginning July 8, but there is still cause for concern. Atlanta United and Inter Miami each announced on June 18 that they had a player test positive, and Atlanta announced a second positive player on June 20.
A limited group of Temple fall sports athletes, mostly consisting of football players, will return to campus on Monday and be tested.
The hope is to get college sports back underway in the fall on their original schedule, but that’s still uncertain.