I’ve heard of playoff beards, but this is ridiculous. I tuned in to Sportsnet Tuesday for the resumption of NHL hockey only to see that commentator Elliotte Friedman had turned into San Jose Sharks centre Joe Thornton. They both need to see Bill Barber!

As for the action on the ice, for me, the empty seats were a distraction. The game seemed less important, reminding me a bit of the outdoor heritage games being played in recent years, or worse, the YouTube videos our goalie posts after Brampton Teacher’s Hockey League games on YouTube.

It didn’t help that much of the hockey I watched looked pretty ragged, leading the play-by-play and colour voices to drift away from the game and turn to other topics. The onus will be on the people in the booth to bring excitement to what might be some fairly ordinary hockey in the coming weeks.

The biggest hurdle of all may be that it is the end of July, and this all feels like some sort of Spangler cup tourney right now. Even the fans would rather be golfing.

Now, Toronto Maple Leafs fans may not see it that way because a win is a win, especially over the Montreal Canadiens Tuesday night. And, sure, there are plenty of off-ice topics in play right now, including how the hub cities and venues are being utilized as well as COVID-19 breakouts in other sports.

The game voices will have to make up for, to a certain extent, the missing roar of the crowd. Fan passion is clearly a big part of the game, and teams such as Montreal and Winnipeg, where arena reactions are always hearty and amplified, would seem to be at a disadvantage. The Leafs, on the other hand, while never enduring half empty rinks, have skated through decades of corporate ticket holders sitting on their hands. The sounds of silence might be just their ticket to the Cup.


What counts most right now, however, will be TV ratings. I’ll update here with Tuesday numbers by end of day.

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