NHL Heroes and Heels: Hey, at least we have video games

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 09: Alex Ovechkin plays Wii against Dan Rosen during an appearance at the NHL Powered by Reebok Store on September 9, 2009 in New York, New York. (Photo by Michael Cohen/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 09: Alex Ovechkin plays Wii against Dan Rosen during an appearance at the NHL Powered by Reebok Store on September 9, 2009 in New York, New York. (Photo by Michael Cohen/Getty Images) /

Heroes and Heels is a weekly NHL column highlighting the heroes and villains of the last week of hockey. This week, I moved to a deserted island and I’m never coming back.

If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you’ll know I recently bought a small video game called Animal Crossing: New Horizons for the not-really-well-known console, the Nintendo Switch. I’ve been playing it so much over the last few days that it’s helped me find a new routine in the midst of a time when all normal schedules have gone out the window.

I swear, I do have a point here when talking about video games. I’ll get there.

We’ve been without the NHL for closing in on two weeks now, which feels like forever given how much news we’re bombarded with each day. Sports are no closer to returning, and with the Olympics officially being postponed until 2021, there remains a lot of uncertainty around when we’ll see normalcy return to our lives.

As such, like I said last week in this column, it’s time to find a hobby. For some like myself, video games are the perfect escape. For others, catching up on TV shows or movies that have passed you by is another. Taking up something creative — like drawing or writing or a paint by numbers kit like my sister has — is also a perfect way to find small moments of joy in our current landscape.

In any case, stay safe and stay sane out there, folks.

What I’m watching: Westworld
What I’m playing: Animal Crossing, Overwatch

Hero: NHL 20

As I said, I had a point when mentioning my newest Animal Crossing obsession! Over the course of the last week or so, the NHL has seen a bunch of teams start to simulate their previously scheduled regular season games in NHL 20 and livestream them over the internet.

Teams such as the Carolina Hurricanes, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues and Montreal Canadiens have all started to stream simulated NHL 20 games on Twitter, YouTube or Twitch in an attempt to regain a sense of normalcy in their fans lives.

The Washington Capitals are going one step further, by televising their simulated NHL 20 game against the Blues on Tuesday night, with the NBC Sports Washington announcers getting in on the fun as well by calling the game.

It’s great to see the teams lean into what little hockey content we do have thanks to NHL 20‘s existence as a video game. The Capitals going all-in on the idea by broadcasting the 60 minute simulation — with announcers! — is a great way to fill air time, plus give fans the hockey content they’re so desperately starved for.

Sure, it’s just a facsimile of the real thing until hockey itself returns, but hey, it’s something at least!

Heel: Hockey cancellations

Any and all cancellations of sports are for the betterment of society at this point, with the worst of coronavirus still to come for much of North America and the rest of the world. However, it’s still sad to see the cancellations pile up as the days go by.

On Monday, the Canadian Hockey League — which encompasses the Western Hockey League (WHL), Ontario Hockey League (OHL), and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) — announced the cancellation of the remainder of the 2019-20 season. The news doesn’t come as a surprise, since leagues such as the ECHL cancelled the rest of their season a week ago and the American Hockey League suspended play, for the time being.

The CHL cancelling the rest of the season does not bode well for the NHL, though the KHL will play their playoffs after April 10 — meaning at least one major hockey league will attempt to play on through this crisis.

The NHL has some decisions to make in the coming weeks. The players have proposed a late-July restart to the season, which would award the Stanley Cup for the 2019-20 season in September as the league turns around to play the 2020-21 season in October. It’s a wild proposition, but with the Olympics being postponed to 2021, the calendar is free for the NHL to play around with.

It is a shame, however, to see the seasons of so many hockey players end prematurely. Alexis Lafreniere, the consensus No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NHL draft, will end his season with 112 points in 52 games in the QMJHL without a chance to compete for the President’s Cup this spring. As will many other hockey players.

The right thing has been done, of course, but it’s still a shame to see the seasons of so many players cut short.

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