Rick Zamperin: Returning to play during COVID-19 pandemic can be done

Dundas, Ont. native Mackenzie Hughes hits out of a bunker on the 15th fairway during practice for the Charles Schwab Challenge golf tournament at the Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, Wednesday, June 10, 2020. AP Photo/David J. Phillip

Nobody said it was going to be easy, and North America’s major professional sports leagues are certainly finding that out as they attempt to plot out their respective return-to-play plans amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The National Hockey League will reportedly select its two hub cities that will house the 24 playoff teams by June 22 and has earmarked July 10 for the start of training camps.

But with the Canada-U.S. border closure to non-essential travel stretching into mid-to-late July, it is unlikely the NHL will be able to select Toronto, Edmonton or Vancouver (the only Canadian cities being considered) to become the other hub.

READ MORE: ‘We gotta do what we gotta do’: NHLers ponder playing without fans amid COVID-19

The NBA has confirmed an end of season plan that will see 22 teams play in a virtual bubble at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex at Disney World in Florida, but in a Zoom conference call that included about 80 players on Friday night, some of them expressed reservations about returning to the court.

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Major League Baseball and the players’ association are still not on the same page when it comes to a plan to start the suspended 2020 season, so much so that the MLBPA told the league on Saturday that any additional talks are “futile.”

Major League Soccer announced last week that it would return to action in July with a World Cup style tournament at Disney World, while the Canadian Premier League is hoping to follow the MLS’ lead and hold a round-robin style tournament sometime in mid-July.

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The Canadian Football League has said that its most likely return-to-play scenario likely wouldn’t commence until at least September, if at all, even though a select number of players are being allowed to return to their home stadiums to train.

The PGA Tour and NASCAR have so far led the way in North America by returning to play without fans and in a safe manner.

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Golf roared back to life this weekend at the Charles Schwab Challenge in Texas while the NASCAR circuit has been humming along for a few weeks now.

The major sports leagues have a long way to go, but they should take solace in the fact that it can be done.

Rick Zamperin is the assistant program, news and senior sports director at Global News Radio 900 CHML.

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