Spring Sports Roundup

Issues with COVID-19 are still hounding national sports leagues and athletes from all over the world. Many of them are suffering long-term side effects from contracting the virus, which could pose risks to their careers and their families. Here’s a look at where things stand in mid-April.

  1. 1. NHL: regular season is currently ongoing

    This season has been strange from the start. Due to rescheduling the 2019-2020 season to overlap with the normal regular season, the 2020-2021 season didn’t start until January of 2021. It has also been shortened from 82 to 56 games, the conferences were all shuffled around and renamed “divisions”, and the Stanley Cup playoffs will be a top-four, 16-team format this summer. Did I miss anything? I suppose the cool new “Reverse Retro” jerseys made a lot of fans happy, but not being able to attend games in person puts a damper on the joy of a new jersey. Some arenas have been allowed to welcome fans at a limited capacity, but this also means that, unfortunately, there have been a number of COVID-19 outbreaks on teams, with the most serious case being the Vancouver Canucks who have seen 25 of their players and an undisclosed number of staff members all testing positive and most suffering from severe symptoms. They are still expected to finish their season with the other Canadian teams in the North Division, which is pretty morbid if you ask the fans. That division is competing well, boasting many young, star players. The West Division has the most competition for the fourth playoff spot, with East and South Divisions in close races for who will secure the top spot and the home-ice advantage. Everyone’s schedule is jam-packed (perhaps to an unsafe degree?) heading into the end of the regular season. Who knows what other surprises are in store for hockey fans this spring.

  2. 2. Women's Hockey

    In my previous article, I neglected to account for the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association, which is a separate entity from the NWHL.

  3. 3. PWHPA: The Dream Gap Tour is currently ongoing

    In their second season, the PWHPA has already boasted the first professional women’s hockey game played at Madison Square Garden. The event was introduced by sports icon Billie Jean King and featured a win by Team WSF over Team Adidas. This made their series 1-1 after Team Adidas had previously won their other New York City match. The Dream Gap Tour continued to Chicago, where Team Adidas, led by Kendall Coyne Schofield and Hilary Knight, secured two decisive victories. The next leg will be held in St. Louis and is currently on hold due to COVID-19 but will resume soon

  4. 4. NWHL: season ended March 27

    In their sixth season, the NWHL opted to hold their regular season in a bubble in Lake Placid, New York. The six teams arrived in January as planned but then things got a little messy. The regular season was originally scheduled to have each team face each other team once, followed by an additional two games per team to set the final playoff schedule. However, COVID-19 got in the mix at the end of January, forcing the Metropolitan Riveters and the Connecticut Whale to withdraw. The postponement lasted until the end of March when teams gathered again and were re-seeded in order to compete for the Isobel Cup. The Boston Pride reigned victorious over the Minnesota Whitecaps in a national broadcast final on NBC Sports Network, the first of its kind.

  5. 5. WBNA: draft day is TODAY

    Speaking of new jerseys, you’ll want to check out the looks put together for the league in their 25th season. It starts now, with the Draft taking place TODAY on April 15 and the regular season scheduled for May 14. As of this writing, the Dallas Wings will have the first and second picks of the draft, for the first time in league history! As for the top picks, the Wings are expected to choose Charli Collier, who was learning to shoot from her basketball athlete parents at age five, and Awak Kuier, who makes dunking look easy. Aari McDonald of Arizona is another top draft pick, with her incredible stats like 4 assists per game making up for the perceived weakness of her height (she's only 5'6"!). But, of course, the official results won’t be in for another couple of hours. What else do the Dallas Wings have going for them? Their brand new coach, Vickie Johnson, as of December 9, 2020. So you can bet that all eyes will be on them for a successful season this year.

  6. 6. NBA: regular season is currently ongoing

    The NBA Draft was held virtually in November 2020, with Georgia freshman Anthony Edwards going first to the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Golden States Warriors’s pick James Wiseman and the Charlotte Hornets’s LaMelo Ball rounding out the top three.

    Similar to the NHL, the league had to change the dates of and shorten their season, with only 72 games and a playoff tournament running from mid-May to the finals in July. The All-Star game was held on March 7, in Atlanta instead of Indianapolis, and was won by Team LeBron. COVID-19 protocols were laid out in advance and there were under 1,500 invited guests in attendance, with the rosters decided by popular vote among fans, media, and the players themselves. Speaking of COVID-19, the Toronto Raptors relocated this season to Tampa, Florida, in order to avoid issues with traveling across the Canadian border for games. Both conferences are locked in tight competition for the top spots heading into the end of the regular season, with a number of games having been postponed due to the pandemic and winter storms, just like other leagues have faced.

  7. 7. MLB: regular season has begun

    Speaking of relocating a Canadian team, the Toronto Blue Jays also had to decide where to begin their season. They are currently in Florida and, if the border remains closed after May, they will play in Buffalo, New York, where they played in 2020.

    A full 162 game season is planned, having begun on April 1 with the World Series (did you hear the Los Angeles Dodgers took home the prize last year?) to be held in November 2021. This will also include the rescheduled Field of Dreams and Little Classic games scheduled for August 2021. And, of course, the First-Year Player Draft is scheduled for July in conjunction with the MLB All-Star Game. This event was relocated from Atlanta, Georgia, to Denver, Colorado following controversial voting legislation in Georgia and has been met with positive and negative reactions across the country. In related news, this will be the final season of the controversial Cleveland Indians team, with a new name and logo set to debut next year. Now, will there be any more controversy this year with the new attention being given to pitchers adding foreign substances to their equipment? Stay tuned.

  8. 8. NFL: new schedule for next season

    Even if you did not watch this year’s Super Bowl back in February, you definitely saw the memes about The Weeknd’s stellar performance. Or maybe Tom Brady drunk on a yacht afterward. Brady’s new team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took home the trophy this year after a whirlwind postseason.

    This season saw two major changes in addition to everything around COVID-19 protocols. The first is that the Oakland Raiders moved to Las Vegas with a new stadium, too. The second is that the Washington Redskins finally dropped their controversial name and logo, temporarily going by the Washington Football Team this year. The regular season was played without preseason or international games, but next year will see some changes. Most notably is the expansion to 17 games per team in the regular season and only three preseason games, starting in August 2021. The Draft is scheduled for the last weekend of April in Cleveland, but will most likely be virtual.

  9. 9. MLS: regular season has begun

    At the end of last season, the Philadelphia Union won their first Supporter’s Shield, and Columbus Crew SC beat the Seattle Sounders FC to win the MLS Cup. The 2021 season will also be shifted from the normal months of the year, starting just a few days ago on April 3 and concluding in November with the postseason scheduled to finish in December.

    As we have seen before, Canadian teams have been moved to new facilities so there is no travel across the border. CF Montréal is playing in Fort Lauderdale, at the home of Miami FC, Toronto FC is playing in Orlando, at the home of the Orlando City FC, and Vancouver Whitecaps FC is playing in Utah, at the home of Real Salt Lake. Additionally, this is the inaugural season of the brand new Austin FC team based in Austin, Texas. With three new teams in the last two seasons, Major League Soccer has expanded to 27 teams across North America.

  10. 10. NWSL: Champion Cup Tournament has begun

    At the end of last season, the league announced new formats and schedules for this season. The Challenge Cup would be an in-season tournament starting April 9, followed by the 24-match regular season beginning May 15. The playoffs would also expand to include the six teams and start on November 6 and with the NWSL Championship scheduled for November 20. Other news in the league includes the update to founding team Sky Blue FC who have changed their name (and uniforms) to NJ/NY Gotham FC. Yes, their amazing new nickname is The Goths.

    The Challenge Cup is underway, with both divisions traveling and competing in their home stadiums. North Carolina Courage and defending NWSL Champions Portland Thorns FC currently have the wins for the first games of the season, with Orlando Pride and defending Challenge Cup Champions Houston Dash beating their opponents in a tiebreaker due to holding fewer yellow cards.

As more teams, staff, and fans have access to vaccinations, many people hope to return a full return to live sporting events later on this year.