If the NHL returns — and according to the Kings’ Drew Doughty, that’s a big if — there’s a real concern about the affect it will have on players’ bodies.
In a conference call with reporters last Monday, Doughty probably represented a lot of players’ worst fears. The veteran defender was candid in detailing why that he doesn’t believe the NHL will be able to return to finish the 2019-20 season.
“It’s what’s going on in the whole world. I mean, everything just keeps getting delayed even more, with lockdowns and things like that. People are dying, [with] more every day. I don’t see how or when we’re going to be able to make a decision to return to the season,” explained Doughty. “And then when that comes into play, you have to figure out all the logistics after that. So it seems very, very hard to be able to do. But us players are going to be ready for whatever.”
No other player has directly addressed that growing chance that the NHL will have to scrap the rest of this season or risk losing or severely altering the 2020-21 season. Doughty has never been one to mince words, though, and he maintained his candor in describing how inauthentic it would feel to award something for this season.
“I know they want to give out the Stanley Cup this year, but in all seriousness, it’s not going to be like winning a real Stanley Cup because the season wasn’t finished. There are teams that couldn’t get in the playoffs, and I’m assuming they’d have to come up with a different format for it.”
(Of course, he admitted with a laugh that he’d feel different if the Kings were in a playoff position).
Another point touched on by Doughty was the comparison to the 2016-17 season, where players who played in both the Stanley Cup Final and the World Cup of Hockey, an international tournament hosted by the NHL that September, had just an 88-day long off-season. It was difficult for the players to adjust their off-season training regiments.
“We had to play that World Cup kind of out of nowhere. That was so tough to go into games like that after one or two exhibition games coming right out of the summer. I never recovered from that World Cup for the rest of the season. I was in absolute pain that whole season. As much as I could mentally be in game mode, your body’s not ready for it if you don’t get a full offseason of training.”
The concern about that off-season training is already creeping in to his new reality, waiting for a season that could start at any moment, or might get cancelled in a month. “I don’t know what I’m working out for, exactly,” he said.
“They’ve been telling us we can come back at any time. We never really got a break. I don’t know if they cancel the season if we get a break. We only got about four days without training. I like to take at least three or four weeks off. I don’t really know what’s going on here.”
The fact is that none of us really know what’s going on, unfortunately.
All we can do is wait and work out until that changes.