We may miss full, or even half full stadiums, and canned crowd noises sound silly but do nothing and this is what Covid can do to pro-sports teams and their players:
While the NHL carefully conducts the 2019-20 Stanley Cup Final in a quarantined bubble in Edmonton, the KHL is already well into its 2020-21 regular season. In the face of a global pandemic, the KHL felt they were prepared to conduct a full-fledged season, with inter-country travel and fans in arenas. The KHL pushed ahead with their plans despite 116 KHL players testing positive for COVID-19 heading into the regular season. Already, the KHL has run into significant problems, with multiple teams reporting positive COVID-19 cases. For instance, the lone Latvian team in the league, Dinamo Riga, was unable to complete their first road trip through Russia when one of their opponents, Barys Astana, reported 12 cases of COVID-19, causing the game to be postponed. When they returned to Latvia, Riga reported five positive cases of their own, with government officials enforcing a quarantine and demanded that more games be postponed.
Earlier this week, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl forfeited a game against Kunlun Red Star when they simply didn’t show up. Lokomotiv hasn’t confirmed how many positive cases they’ve had, but the entire team has been quarantined.
In most cases, KHL teams with positive COVID-19 cases are not being quarantined and are instead simply replacing their sick players with players from their junior teams. Reports indicate that “more than half” of the roster for SKA tested positive for COVID-19, as did their coaching staff ahead of their game against Sibir on Wednesday. As a result, SKA iced the youngest lineup in KHL history, as 10 players made their KHL debut.
With no coaches available, SKA’s billionaire vice president, Roman Rotenberg, stepped behind the bench as head coach. It’s incredible that the game even went ahead as scheduled given these circumstances. The league has been criticized for forcing through games with junior players as well as their decision to hand Finland-based Jokerit Helsinki a forfeit loss when they refused to travel to Minsk, Belarus in the midst of their political unrest. In addition, the KHL's decision to have fans in arenas without enforcing strict social-distancing or masks seems extremely foolhardy.
Contracting COVID-19 could have unforeseen consequences, as scientists are as yet unsure of the long-term effects of the virus. Meanwhile, the NHL should be paying close attention to the troubles the KHL is having with their regular season as they make plans for their own 2020-21 season. They simply can’t be as blasé to the dangers of COVID-19 as the KHL has been.
That was the first match in several seasons where my heart wasn't in my mouth every time the oppo had the ball anywhere near our penalty area. Were we dominant? No not quite, but we looked confident, and never panicked, which was a massive improvement.
One game is a small sample, but it really appears something has changed back there, and for the better. We'll know more with a couple more matches under our belts but the signs today were very positive.
From When Saturday Comes club-by-club season review/preview. Jake Farrell identifies the best and worst moments for Stevenage last season:
Best Moment: The moment Ilias Chairs's loan from QPR was finalised. Scored or was involved in about 80 per cent of our goals after he came in, including several worldies.
Worst Moment: The moment Ilias Chair's loan from QPR ended. Slightly scared about where all of those goals and assists are going to come from. Remember the name — he'll be in the Premier League wirthin three years.
Nothing we hadn't heard before but nice to see it emphasised.
Watched LAFC, who were yet to drop a point, lose to the previously winless Whitecaps last night. Niko played sixty minutes for LA and acquitted himself well enough. He played left wing-back in a very high-press 3–5–2 set-up. Made no major errors, his passing and positioning were good, his crosses — though he only made a couple — a bit wild. He was pulled, I think, as LA were chasing the game and needed someone who was more confident taking players on.
I haven't checked but I wouldn't be surprised if Hemed's "goals per minutes played" is better than most of us realise. He looks deeply unimpressive: can't run, doesn't tackle, limited ball skills but he's occasionally in the right place for the garbage goals. Like today. I suspect most players would never have expected Scowen to turn that waist high pass back in front of goal, but Hemed was there waiting for it. He's maybe a bit like Sylla, a pure goal hanger who's useless at everything except scoring goals?
June Whitfield is gone at 93. A wonderful comedy actor, with immaculate timing and delivery. My first memory of her is as Ethel Glum ("Eth") with Jimmy Edwards. I hope she left with a smile. Ta ta love, and thanks for making the world a happier place.