Is that the faint sense of hope in the air?
While the COVID-19 pandemic has halted life as we know it – and professional sports are a big part of life here in Ohio – leagues and governing bodies have been laying the groundwork for a potential return to action.
The NHL has been soliciting proposals from prospective "hub cities" and Columbus is believed to be in the mix. Depending on which report you read on a certain idea being floated in league circles, hockey may return in July and finish in October with a new season beginning in late November or December.
Sure, there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical. But Ohio governor Mike DeWine, who has been at the forefront of the state's proactive response to COVID-19, recently told the Dayton Daily News that he sees a summer return of pro sports as realistic.
“Professional sports are going to be obviously to a great extent dictated by the leagues, but it would not surprise me again to see some professional sports come back in Ohio, maybe with no spectators,” DeWine said. “That’s certainly a possibility.”
Major League Baseball has reportedly been eyeing a July 1 or July 4 opening day should the all-clear be given by health officials and local governments.
The NBA is examining several return-to-play scenarios and team facilities are slowly reopening for voluntarily, socially-distant workouts. Major League Soccer recently reopened its training facilities for voluntary outdoor workouts, as well, but the league has not announced any plans for a return to play.
The NHL and NBA are facing perhaps the trickiest logistical hurdles before games are played. Both were deep into their regular seasons when the pandemic forced them to shut down, and there's a real possibility that one or both leagues will fast-forward directly to postseason action, perhaps with expanded tournaments.
But DeWine made it clear that he will be closely examining any proposals that come across his desk when leagues are considering getting back up and running.
“I could see all kinds of sports occurring – without spectators,” he said. “I think that’s a middle ground. It allows for professional sports, those of us who like baseball, seeing it on TV would be a great thing. Or listening to a game on the radio. We’d like to see it in person, but we can’t do that. That’s obviously something in professional sports, the leagues have got to figure that out. That’s above my pay grade. They’ve got to come up with whatever their proposal is.”