Detroit – The Detroit Red Wings were preparing to fly to Washington Wednesday when officials in the nation’s capital recommended that all “non-essential mass gatherings” be canceled or rescheduled as a precaution to prevent spread of the coronavirus.
The Red Wings’ game against the Capitals Thursday will proceed as scheduled, but nobody can predict what tomorrow will bring in what has become a day-to-day watch in and out of the sports world.
“It is surreal,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said after practice Wednesday. “It’s times that we probably haven’t necessarily all lived through. It definitely shows you how interconnected we all are in the world today and how fast stuff like this can spread.”
NHL, NBA and MLB dressing rooms were closed to the media Tuesday. At least one NHL team, San Jose, will not have fans in its arena for home games. The NBA’s Golden State Warriors are expected to follow suit.
“These are difficult decisions,” Blashill said. “You don’t want to overplay it; you don’t want to underplay it. I got done yesterday talking to (media) and I wondered to myself, should I worry more or less. I really don’t know. Are we going to look back in two weeks and say it was a lot for nothing or are we going to look back in two weeks and say we should have been more concerned? Nobody knows the answer to that.
“There are people that are paid lots of money to make these decisions. It’s a decision beyond our control. To say we don’t think about it would be false. But we just got to keep focusing on what we control and see where that takes us.”
Blashill said playing games in an empty arena would not be “fun.”
With no event scheduled at Little Caesars Arena on Wednesday, the Red Wings could have practiced on the main ice. They opted to skate at their practice rink, the Belfor Training Center.
“When there’s nobody in the building, there’s zero atmosphere and practice is usually dull, so we choose to practice on the practice rink because it’s a tighter area and you feel like there’s more action,” Blashill said. “I don’t think anybody involved wants to play games not in front of fans.
“But these are interesting times. Certainly, I understand safety concerns. … I think everybody’s trying to balance making sure that we’re taking the proper precautions without being overcautious. Nobody probably knows where that fine line is. So, these are real hard times and hard decisions.”
Blashill spoke to the uncertainty this disease has created.
“Obviously, it’s been a contagious virus,” Blashill said. “Again, where does it go? Does it become less deadly? More deadly? Nobody knows those things. It just becomes a real difficult thing to balance in your own personal life, and certainly when we’re in this situation where we travel to different spots in the country. We’re all in uncharted territories. At the end of the day, you have to abide by whatever decisions are made.”
The situation has hit close to home for Blashill, whose three kids play youth hockey.
“I called my wife on the way home (Tuesday); I hadn’t known about the two cases (of coronavirus) here in Michigan,” he said. “She was paying attention to Ohio because we used to live in Ohio and know lots of people from that area. Miami University sent out something that they weren’t going to shut down, and then two hours later they were shut down. These are decisions that you kind of go as the timeline goes. So far with my own personal life, nothing has been affected yet, so we’ll see.”
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