Rozner: While MLB burns, NBA and NHL keeping it cool

  • The NHL, with playoff teams such as the Blackhawks and Edmonton Oilers, have done well staying healthy while in the bubble. "Nothing is risk free," Commissioner Gary Bettman said.

    The NHL, with playoff teams such as the Blackhawks and Edmonton Oilers, have done well staying healthy while in the bubble. "Nothing is risk free," Commissioner Gary Bettman said. Associated Press

  • Toronto Raptors' Serge Ibaka shoots over the Miami Heat's Kelly Olynyk during Monday's game in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The NBA and NHL playoff teams have remained relatively healthy while in the bubble.

    Toronto Raptors' Serge Ibaka shoots over the Miami Heat's Kelly Olynyk during Monday's game in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The NBA and NHL playoff teams have remained relatively healthy while in the bubble. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 8/3/2020 5:50 PM

Anyone who thinks traveling for work is glamorous has absolutely never traveled for work.

Fly a million miles or stay 1,000 nights in a hotel and you remember too keenly the stories of housekeeping throwing out your laptop power cord, arriving hours late after tarmac mechanical issues or suffering from food poisoning during ascent -- and stuck in the middle seat to the dismay of those around you.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

As a baseball beat writer, the routine was, well, quite routine. Get to the ballpark about 2 p.m. for a night game, leave the ballpark about midnight or 1 a.m., grab a nightcap, get up and work out, sweat out the poison, and start all over again.

Glamorous.

Consider now being in the NBA or NHL bubble, where players and staff have no family or friends and nowhere to go but the arena and a hotel room.

Sounds like a hoot.

But so far -- knock on wood -- the players' commitment to the bubble process is impressive, and it seems to be working.

So far.

"In this environment, nothing is risk free," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told NBC. "But working collectively and collaboratively with the players and the players association, our own medical people and the outside experts, we think we've created a format and protocols that now that we're inside the bubble, our players and all of our personnel can feel relatively safe.

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"There's no absolute guarantee. We're hopeful and we believe everyone is doing everything they can to make this experience as safe as possible."

Bettman has taken no shortage of pounding here over the years, but you have to credit the man for working with the players -- as did the NBA's Adam Silver -- to try to get this season to conclusion.

"We had a return-to-play committee involving players and we were getting feedback," Bettman said. "How long should training camp be? You tell us. We're not on a fixed schedule.

"We actually had a discussion about having the first and second rounds -- after the play-in round -- being best-of-five, and the players said, 'We want it best-of-seven. We want this to be a regular playoff format because whoever hoists the Stanley Cup is going to want to feel they did it the exact way you need to do it.'

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I think the longer you're playing, the more you're winning, that may balance out some of the fatigue from being away from family and friends. We understand it's a sacrifice and our players are sensational in terms of their dedication and commitment to the game."

The contrast of the NBA and NHL with baseball is stunning.

An MLB bubble would have been difficult. Maybe impossible. But the conversation regarding playing a baseball season was almost entirely about money.

Players boss Tony Clark was being pushed around by agents whose only concern seemed to be salary and setting the stage for the next CBA fight, when Clark could have been fighting for bubble cities.

At the same time, Rob Manfred needed a season and expanded playoffs so his owners could collect their TV dollars.

That was the focus of negotiations.

Now baseball is on the verge of falling apart, though Manfred insists that he will not give up on 2020 and that the sport will do all it can to crown a 60-game champion.

"We are playing," Manfred told ESPN. "The players need to be better, but I am not a quitter in general and there is no reason to quit now. We have had to be fluid, but it is manageable."

That, however, will require every player -- if it's not too late -- to take seriously the safety protocols, and clearly it's been a problem up until now.

So as MLB burns and the NFL wonders if it will play a single game, the NBA and NHL -- having worked closely with the players -- are back in business and so far it has been so very good.

Knock on wood.

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