BY Art Thiel 08:00AM 07/13/2020

Thiel: So NHL sneaks off to Canada, eh? Smart

Once the “wartime president” turned his back on the virus fight, NHL took its playoffs to hub cities in Canada. Would have gone further north, but the Arctic is melting.

The real-life hockey descendants of the Hanson brothers might be the smartest guys in sports.

My favorite descriptor of our neighbors to the north is that Canada is the law office above a good party bar.

Well, the party seems over, for a good long while, anyway.

“Knock-knock, Canada. It’s us, America. Some trouble down here. We, um, need a place to crash. Got a couch? Yes, yes, we’re wearing masks. Mostly. Some.”

I’m not sure those are the exact words the NHL used, but somehow, a bunch of Hanson-brothers types will be let in Canada soon to play some hockey. While many things can change, it looks as if the NHL has the best shot of all the major sports to return to play.

Why? The pucksters won’t play a single game of their tournament in the U.S.

Surveying the record-setting stupidity by Americans in attempting to curb the spread of the coronavirus — I’m tempted to say it reminds me of the Mariners’ 2019 season after the 13-2 start, but the U.S. never came close to 13-2 — we may have fallen to the level of the Duchy of Grand Fenwick in the League of Nations standings.

The fabled land drew attention in the 1959 satire, The Mouse That Roared, in which Peter Sellers, as Prime Minster Count Rupert Mountjoy, explained why a tiny principality declaring war on the U.S. was a good idea:

You must remember, the Americans are a very strange people. Whereas other countries rarely forgive anything, the Americans forgive anything. There isn’t a more profitable undertaking for any country than to declare war on the United States and to be defeated.

So I assume the 2020 version has America realizing Mountjoy was right, and has attacked itself, knowing there is no more profitable undertaking.

But before this sequel plays out, with President Trump as Mountjoy, the NHL clubs are gathering full rosters together Monday for the first time in four months. After two weeks of summer camp, on July 26, 12 Western Conference teams head to Edmonton, and 12 Eastern Conference teams head to Toronto.

The only reason the league didn’t select hub cities farther away from America was that Yellowknife, Inuvik and Tuktoyatuk in the Northwest Territories are a little shy on supplies of hotel rooms and Kokanee.

“I don’t know what greater indictment you need of the United States’ response to the virus than the NHL picking up its puck and retreating to Canada,”  Zach Binney, an epidemiologist at Oxford College of Emory University, told the Washington Post. “That was a smart decision. That was a very smart decision.”

Public records Friday reported Toronto had 14,777 confirmed cases an 1,107 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. Edmonton reported 1,202 cases and 19 deaths.

Canada as a whole had reported 106,882 cases and 8,748 deaths. In Florida, they call that Tuesday.

Central Florida is where the MLS and NBA have chosen to play their bubble tournaments. The NBA hasn’t started play yet, but MLS has. Or most of it has. The 26-team tourney is down two teams already, Dallas and Nashville having bailed because of too many positive tests among the traveling personnel.

Additionally, Orlando in July is where swelter goes to die.

In their 0-0 tourney-opening draw with San Jose Friday, the defending champion Seattle Sounders looked as if they played in a car wash. It was over 80 degrees at the 9 p.m. kickoff, with 90 percent humidity. The Sounders’ next match is Tuesday at 6 a.m. PT (repeat, 6 a.m. PT) as they try to beat Chicago, the midday heat and the virus.

Another Florida obstacle: Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Clorox). A Trump acolyte, DeSantis may be more underwater than SpongeBob SquarePants, only not as smart. He is desperate to open schools fully in September, despite the fact that his state is the hottest covid-19 spot anywhere in the world.

He’s the sort of funster who would tell MLS and NBA to open the gates to fans, because, as he said Friday, “If you can do Home Depot, if you can do Walmart, if you can do these things, we absolutely can (open) the schools.”

But much as we declare the NHL smarter than DeSantis (a very low bar), let us not ascribe to its leadership genius status. The league almost succumbed to the siren call of ignorance. In its pursuit of hub cities, the league was believed to have strongly considered Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago.

But once it was clear that that Trump, the self-identified “wartime president” who turned his back on the virus fight, was going to make things worse instead of better, the NHL literally headed north while America figuratively headed south.

The NHL also appears to be the most aggressive among the leagues who have agreed to testing plans.

Once in the hub city, each member of each club’s personnel daily will undergo  temperature checks and symptom screening. The league also will test people who might have indirect contact with teams — such as hotel workers — each day.

A player testing positive must self-isolate; the asymptomatic ones can’t return for 10 days unless negative test is produced. A player with symptoms is out for a minimum 10 days, then must have no symptoms for 72 hours before returning.

The best chance for NHL success rests with the ability of testers to catch the germy U.S. residents before they reach Edmonton and Toronto and infect the north.

The law office must put its foot down. The party-hearty Yanks cannot be trusted to self-discipline — at least until the Canadians get the wall built by having America pay for it, then they don’t have to care.


  • SeattleSince57

    Hoping for my NHL viewing career to begin, next year.

    • art thiel

      As do many. Since that season will start no earlier than Dec. 1, 2021, there’s at least an outside shot we are on the pandemic’s downside.

      • Matt

        And by that time, maybe Climate Pledge Arena (first time I’ve ever typed that, perhaps last too) and the practice facility will be complete. Or, radically, maybe even the AHL arena situation will be settled in Palm Springs or elsewhere.

      • LarryLurex70

        If the dominant colour scheme at the official team site is any indication, I’m resigned to the announcement of Sockeye tomorrow morning. At least it’s not Kracken.

  • Alan Harrison

    The difference between Orlando and Edmonton is, um, well, shucks. I guess there is no difference, except that people don’t die so much of a virus in Edmonton. O, Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

    • art thiel

      Any edge in a panic, right? At least Canada has a coordinated response.

      • Husky73

        I’ll take Mr. Trudeau any day. Could a trade be worked out….a second round pick, a player to be named later and an undisclosed amount of cash?

        • LarryLurex70

          Don’t forget Bonnie Henry, too.

          • art thiel

            I’d like to see James Paxton back.

  • SeattleSince57

    Hanson brothers were so radical they wore uniforms with Native American nicknames
    way back then..LOL

    • Husky73

      Who owwwwwwnnnnnnsssssss the Chiefs?

    • art thiel

      The Hansons forever will be trendy.

    • Kirkland

      The Hansons still appear at many hockey games, and are a hoot on Twitter. If you search hard enough, you can find Charleston Chiefs replica jerseys to buy online.

  • Husky73

    I just saw The Mouse that Roared the other night!

    • art thiel

      You make it at least one who gets the joke.

      • Husky73

        Yeah, 61 year old references really don’t resonate with millennials.

  • jafabian

    Florida seems like a complete mess yet MLS and the NBA will be playing there and then travel across North America. That seems like the proverbial recipe for disaster. On another note, we got an update on The Wall today, Pink Floyd not withstanding. Someday all this will make a decent movie.

    • art thiel

      No. The movie will be unwatchable. Unless Nick Nolte plays Trump.

      • Kirkland

        How about Gary Busey?

      • jafabian

        I’m assuming it star Will Ferrell or Alec Baldwin.

  • Kirkland

    The NHL went hard after Vegas because it has tons of hotel rooms available, and within walking distance of T-Mobile Arena or a short drive to the Orleans Arena, which has hosted minor-league hockey. The league even wanted Vegas after dropping safer locales like Vancouver and Columbus (OSU has a hockey program), and only gave up when their COVID numbers were too much.

    MLS and the NBA went to Orlando because of the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex at Disney, which has gazillions of fields/gyms and plenty of accommodations for the players. The MLS stadiums at Colorado, Salt Lake and Dallas anchor multi-field complexes that could’ve also hosted, but Colorado has unpredictable weather this time of year, Utah is hosting the NWSL tournament (which is running quite well actually), and Texas has too much heat and too many positive tests.

    Funny, in junior high we studied the book of “The Mouse that Roared’ in English class. The turning point of the book? Grand Fenwick actually *beats* the USA in the war, without firing a shot. Their army invaded wearing suits of armor, Americans thought they were extraterrestrial aliens, and ran screaming for the hills. Perfect Cold War analogy.

    • art thiel

      Wish I’d read the book, but I’m thinking the Peter Sellers version was more subversive.

  • John

    I loved The Mouse that Roared as a child. It was such an absurdly fun movie to watch. Later, in a Political Science class, it was used as an example of how America took care of the people it defeated in the war (The Marshall Plan, I believe). I still love the movie.
    Now, as to the NHL moving all their games to Canada, it doesn’t take much to outsmart a petulant whiny female dog and it’s fellow yippers wagging the dog. The NHL, at least, appears to care about the players and have them in a country that, like you said, has a coordinated effort to fight the virus. I am not confident that it will go well but I like the effort that’s being made.
    I wonder if Canada has the Curling season going or on hold.

  • Guy K. Browne

    Canada’s ‘puttin on the foil coach!”