NHL – How will No Home Ice Advantage Impact the Playoffs

The 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs are scheduled to commence on August 1st. This was announced on Monday. July 13th is when training camp will start for twenty-four teams in their respective cities. The teams will then embark to their respective North American hub city on July 26th. The top teams compete for seeding, while teams that finished fifth through twelfth in each conference look to get out of the qualifying round to extend their season. After learning this news, it begs the question, how will the lack of a fan atmosphere impact hockey’s postseason?

Thoughts

I do think that the noise coming from a crowd can help alter a game in any sport, so to say there is no impact on the game would be an incorrect statement. However, when talking about home-ice advantage in Stanley Cup Playoffs past, prior to current times, oftentimes it is commonplace for the lower-seeded team to snatch the advantage away, sometimes even to triumph on the big stage of an NHL Game 7 as the Saint Louis Blues accomplished last year in Boston Bruins’ barn. I do not think it will affect home-ice advantage as much as some people may think.

If the hub cities chosen involve two of the playoff teams, there is no doubt the home teams will have some extra adrenaline to try to do it for their local community. However, once the player’s visors come down in front of their faces and the referee lets go of the puck at center ice, the instincts will take over. Will the play look crisp at first? Absolutely not, but after more than four months since ice hockey’s most gifted players play a competitive game, the training and repetitions will pay off. The games will come fast, but such are the times. The players need a few shifts to build up the natural rhythm and flow of the game.

Another thing to watch is the penalty minute ledger in comparison to previous chapters of the playoffs. Even under the current climate, there will still be the element of instigating, which will trigger scuffles. Even in a contact sport like the National Hockey League, there are twelve people on the ice not including officials. The emotions can and will boil over at various stages. It’s hard to tell a player to not come into contact with one another when that is what players do. Spontaneous and instinctual habits are difficult to break, especially when it is their job in a physical sport. 

From a television viewer’s standpoint, NBC’s family of networks have television broadcast rights to the NHL. One wonders if they will apply to what they are currently doing with soccer’s Premier League. That is to say, have an audio background of noise from fans from a past match and pipe it into the broadcasts and stream the natural sound, the lack thereof on their own app. There have been tarps and super-imposed pictures of fans in a Zoom video on various soccer broadcasts, so it’s hard not to envision something along those lines to try to enhance the viewer experience. At least the sound of the goal-horn and music will still reverberate around the arena to provide some of the game atmosphere. 

Conclusion

With soccer, golf, boxing, and mixed martial arts in progress, it should give the NHL powers that be ideas on how to go about things for the foreseeable future if this comes to pass. The advantage goes to the players that applied themselves over this period by staying in shape during the quarantine. Certainly, it must be said that it applies to those who were blessed to avoid testing positive for the coronavirus. Hopefully, tests for all the athletes consistently pop up negative. Likewise a speedy recovery for those who come up positive. Here’s hoping that the protocols are applied and that the best intentions do not go in vain. Here is to a consistent, entertaining brand of playoff hockey ahead littered with overtimes. 

How does not having home ice in the NHL playoffs change the outlook? Leave a comment below.

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Follow Michael on Twitter @MJBolesta2.

Works cited: NHL app/website articles including Tom Gulitti July 6th “NHL, NHLPA agree to extend CBA, start play August 1”, ESPNU ticker, @LindaCohn retweet of @SiriusXMNHL July 6th regarding schedule, Wikipedia “2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs”, Sportsnet YouTube thumbnails and tweets

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