If you haven’t heard by now, the NWHL has suspended the remainder of their 2021 season…as well as the Boston Pride’s “revenge tour.” Although the regular season had already ended, the playoffs were still yet to be played. This decision by the league came after “multiple players and staff members” tested positive for Coronavirus. The Pride were just fingertips away, yet again, from tasting championship victory…
Earlier last week, the Connecticut Whale organization withdrew from the bubble due to safety precautions. Ultimately forfeiting their playoff spot. This headline served as an unexpected precursor to the announcement made by the NWHL officials on Wednesday afternoon:
The NWHL and the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) have agreed, due to new positive COVID-19 tests and the resulting safety concerns for the players, their respective staff & the community that the remainder of the 2021 NWHL Season in Lake Placid have been suspended.
NWHL Official Twitter (Feb 3, 2021)
COVID -19 is not a joke. As we’ve seen, it has pillaged the sports world and the NWHL is no stranger to that. The Metropolitan Riveters took the first initiative to exit the bubble on January 27. It was disclosed in a press conference by NWHL Commissioner Tyler Tumminia on Wednesday that the Riveters had roughly “10 positive cases.” A result that nobody could fathom – though not unrealistic, quite honestly.
What’s more, it was reported by Matt Porter of the Boston Globe, that Boston Pride Head Coach Paul Mara and six other Pride staff/team members were among those who have tested positive for the coronavirus.
“If I could take on all the symptoms our organization feels myself, I would. I feel terrible for them. They don’t deserve this.”
Paul Mara, Boston Pride head coach
He’s right, they don’t deserve this heartbreak. Especially not two years in a row. The Boston Pride were set to face off against the #1 seed Minnesota Whitecaps in a Semifinal matchup Thursday, February 4. A bit of Deja vu from last season, having their Championship game suspended due to the pandemic. If it’s any consolation, the Pride put on an amazing performance in a best-of-3 series vs the Buffalo Beauts for the 3rd playoff seed. Boston took the latter two games with ease, winning 6-0 and 7-1, respectively. A very impressive feat, and certainly a positive note to end the season on.
On the brighter side, league officials are hopeful that they can reschedule the playoff dates to a later date. Cancelling the playoffs two years in a row would be unacceptable. For those of us who loved watching these games and enjoyed all the content this season, I’m very excited to see how the playoffs turn out. They’ll happen, I’m not particularly worried just yet.
I can’t really stress how unfortunate this decision is for this league. Not only because of the positive tests. It was absolutely crucial to exercise the safety protocol put in place before the season began. But the idea that the playoffs were scheduled to be broadcast on the NBC Sports Network, is what upsets me more than anything. That is a national broadcast. The FIRST national broadcast of women’s ice hockey, I may add. These players earned that. Tyler Tumminia addressed some of the animosity and emotions attached to the decision-making:
“Granted, we didn’t get it to [be broadcast] the network. But we are still thrilled. The strides in brand, in awareness, and what we were able to do with this league, which I feel has been unprecedented in the last couple of weeks in our growth, again, very heartbroken.”
Tyler Tumminia, NWHL Commissioner
Of course, there are always situations like this where fingers get pointed and everyone plays the blame game. Tumminia also explained they weren’t going to release the actual number of positive tests. They are, however, taking those positive results and developing “clarity to develop and install some of the best practices moving forward.” Seems like a good idea.
The NWHL Player’s Association assured everyone that there is no one person or people to carry this burden. Anya Packer, the NWHLPA Director, stated they have begun an extensive investigation of contact tracing to find out where the breach in protocol took place.
“I think that for us, we’re doing an extensive amount of contact tracing. So at this point, we’re investigating internally…but I think right now, what we’re trying to do is, make sure our athletes are safe, and go back to ensure that we’ve figured out where there might have been a chink in the armor.”
Anya Packer, NWHLPA Director
At this point, there really isn’t anyone you can look to and say “it was you.” The virus can spread quite easily so it may be more difficult than they think, when trying to find its pathway into the bubble. Either way, I can surmise there will be an exponentially more strict, in-depth protocol for whenever the playoffs continue. Or next season, really. I don’t work for the CDC but I don’t think that we’ll be completely devoid of this virus by Fall of 2021 unfortunately.
All this information in the past two has been quite overwhelming for the league and for the fans alike. Nobody wanted to see this season end, not like this. Not with all their momentum moving forward. For the casual fans, they’ll just turn on a different channel like ESPN. The devoted fanbase, large or small as it may be, they know and I know one thing. When you bet against Boston sports teams, especially when facing adversity…they will come back with a vengeance and win. Every damn time.