Podcast Episode 28: Everything you need to know about the return of the NBA and NHL

July 29, 2020
This week co-hosts Ellen and Steph give #thegist on everything you need to know about the NBA and NHL season restarts and why the 2020 MLB season might be in jeopardy. The drama.
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Listen to this episode of The GIST of IT here.

Ellen: What's up, GISTers? Welcome to The GIST of IT, the podcast where two gals and two pals give you the gist of what's going on in the sports world. I'm Ellen Hyslop.

Steph: And I'm Steph Rotz.

Ellen: Thanks for tuning in.

Hello, Steph. It is the last week of July we're heading into the long weekend, the NHL and NBA are starting up. How are you feeling?

Steph:  Ellen, if I just started crying on the podcast, would that make you uncomfortable?

Ellen: Honestly, maybe.

Steph: I've had three pieces of chocolate cake today. I don't know about you, but I'm still processing Folklore. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, it's this little known artist called Taylor Swift who released the saddest album right now. And it's got me real sad. How about you? How are you doing, Ellen?

Ellen: You are the cutest human being ever. Three pieces of chocolate cake. Oh Steph, you know what, it's just bulking season, baby. You're just going to turn that right into muscle. I know the way that you've been working out lately. That's going right to your biceps.

Steph: Oh, I love how you can spin anything into a positive direction. Thanks, Ellen.

Ellen: Yeah, no problem. You know what I can't spin into a positive direction?

Steph: Hit me.

Ellen: Baseball.

Steph: Oh, gosh. 

Ellen: Baseball. Nothing is going well right now. On Monday, just four days into the MLB shortened season, at least 15 members of the Miami Marlins tested positive for covid-19. And this was after they had played their first series against the Philadelphia Phillies. So because of this, all Marlins games are suspended until Sunday and they were actually supposed to be playing the Washington Nationals in Miami over the course of this next week. And the Washington Nationals had a team vote and they were basically like, hell no, I'm not going.

Steph: What a scandal. Oh, my gosh.

Ellen: It's such a scandal. But you know what is the most scandalous part, and what truly, truly rattles my cage? Is that through group text, Marlins players who were well aware of the outbreak that was happening in their team all texted each other and still decided to play on Sunday against the Phillies. And this is totally against the MLB covid-19 handbook and is also just so selfish. And I don't know how these players would have thought that this was the right thing to do anyway.

Steph: So wait, back this up, they knew they all were in on it, they had a group chat going along and I'm sure there's screenshots. Is that how we know about it? How do we know about this?

Ellen: So we know about this from sources within the Marlins. That's basically the way that we know about this, and other media outlets kind of sharing what has been going on. So, you know, you can just picture... we've talked about group text beforehand with Brendan Leipsic in the NHL. Those things are dangerous. And you get one person who's kind of like, OK, I think that I have symptoms, I think that I might have covid, but let's not say anything because we're playing against the Phillies right now and we want to do well.

Steph: That's just... That's beyond unsportsmanlike.

Ellen: Oh, it's completely unethical.

Steph: It's unethical. Yeah. Good wording.

Ellen: And so, you know, the MLB is a little bit different because it has a regionalized travel schedule which allows teams, teams outside of the Toronto Blue Jays who were denied by the Canadian government because of the cross-border travel situation, which in hindsight, Canada is looking very smart. But anyway, this regionalized travel schedule allows teams to play at home, and it's something similar to how the NFL wants to host their season. And I mean, the MLB is supposed to be 60 games in 66 days, which is very, very different than 16 games within 17 weeks, which is what the NFL would be looking at. But still, just this whole travel thing is not sitting right with me.

Steph: When you read the Canadian government's reasoning for not issuing a national interest exemption for the MLB regular season to cross the border, it makes complete sense. The risk of transmission in this league right now is too high. We've seen it. It's happening. I really hope that the NFL thinks about it too, even though it's obviously a very different structure. But it's definitely frustrating. Like, why they didn't go with a bubble in the first place is totally beyond me.

Ellen: Yes, that is totally beyond me too Steph. And I think it's totally beyond a lot of people. So much so that a lot of people are calling for the MLB season to be paused again or canceled outright. Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, has said, hey, come on over to New York State, we can host all the teams in our bubble. And it might actually work because New York City itself has two stadiums there and a boatload of stadiums everywhere else. So, you know, it could work. Maybe we'll see a bubble with MLB.

Steph: Let's focus on the good anyway. Anyways, let's move on. Too much Folklore, too much of MLB. Let's talk about the leagues who are doing so far so good in their bubbles. With the NBA starting tomorrow, which is Thursday, July 30th, and the NHL starting on Saturday, let's give a verbal cheat sheet on how the fuck the seasons are going to work with our precursors and some insight.

Ellen: Let's do it.

Steph: Ok, so first, let's dive into the NBA because it's starting tomorrow, which is so exciting, so a total of 22 teams, the teams with the best regular season record before the league shut down and to be honest, the world basically shut down in mid-March, are part of this return to place season. Of the 22 teams, nine best teams in the Eastern Conference are taking part and then the 13 best teams from the Western Conference are taking part. All games are being played in Orlando, Florida, at Walt Disney World, which is super fun.

Steph: Ellen, speaking of Orlando, Florida, Walt Disney World in the NBA, remember how last podcast I said I'm extremely impressionable towards marketing, and I'm basically a marketer's dream. Do you remember that?

Ellen: I do.

Steph: I absolutely love seeing so many NBA players this past weekend wearing their orange WNBA hoodies as the WNBA season started last Saturday. And I couldn't stop thinking about this hoodie. I gave it the twenty four hour rule test, slept on it and 100 percent paid the astronomical shipping and duty fees to get me one shipped to Canada.

Ellen: Did you get an orange?

Steph: I got an orange, I got a men's medium. Cause I have the outfit planned, I'm going to wear it with like fit and flare pants. It's going to be great.

Ellen: Oh, my gosh. Ok, I have actually gone on that Fanatics website. I kid you not like so many times and they've literally always had XXL Men's or youth sizes. They've literally  never had anything. So that's amazing that you got it.

Steph: Thank you.

Ellen: And I do have to say, though, one thing on the Fanatics piece, it was the number one best selling item over the weekend, but it was still not featured on the homepage of the website anywhere. So I just got to say that, like, put the money where it is.

Steph: You're right Ellen. Mm hmm.

Ellen: Ok, well, I can't wait to see that outfit. You're going to have to share it.

Steph: Thanks. We'll post it on the 'gram.

Ellen: Ok, sorry. So now let's get back to the NBA and the bubble that they're finding themselves in. So this season will restart with each team playing eight regular season games to determine playoff seeding. That all makes sense. All great. The part that gets a tad confusing is that there will be a play-in for the tournament number eight seed in either conference and a play-in will only happen if the number nine seed is fewer than four games behind in the standings. Otherwise the number eight seed will be safe.

Steph: Ok, I'm a little confused. What does this play-in tournament look like? What are the chances of it actually happening? Does it have to happen? Why is it happening?

Ellen: Yeah, so it doesn't have to happen. The reason why the NBA wanted to do it is, I guess if you picture a standard playoff table for the NBA top eight teams in the West, top eight teams in the east, number one faces off against number eight. With this weird shortened season... In the regular season that the league has had sometimes that final eight spot is really competitive. And so what they're trying to do is to say, OK, this season, restart is super weird and it's short so we'll give the benefit of the doubt to that ninth team if they're within four games. 

So when they say within four games, that basically means wins and percentage of wins in comparison to the number eight team, it's pretty likely that this could happen. I mean, four games behind in the standings is actually a decent amount when you're looking at a playoff picture. So I wouldn't be surprised if we ended up seeing this and then in which case, the number eight seed would just have to beat that nine seed once or the nine seed would essentially have to beat that number eight seed two times in a row.

Steph: Ok, I love how they're keeping this interesting for us. And you've explained it beautifully because I read this a couple of times on the Internet and I was lost. So thank you Ellen.

Ellen: Yes, no problem. I hope that it happens because, you know, more games for us and more entertainment and extra drama.

Steph: We love drama here.

Ellen: Absolutely. Love drama. So after the initial eight regular season games, the top eight teams in each conference will be decided, meaning there will be six teams who will not make the playoffs at all. Bye. They're not part of it anymore. After that, the playoffs will run as normal with a seven game series, meaning that you have to win four games to move on and the first round of the playoffs will start on August 17th.

Steph: This is amazing. It's all happening so fast. We're really, really jumping right back in. And you've given a really great recap here, Ellen. Thanks so much. Let's get your predictions. What players do you think are going to do well in the bubble?

Ellen: Oh, OK. So there's, of course, no fans in the bubble, so there's not really any home court advantage. So I think that the players that will do well will be those that don't really thrive off the energy of a stadium and arena. And I can't think of anyone who would be better at that than L.A. Clippers star Kawhi Leonard. I think he truly gives a flying fuck of the fans in the stands, he is such a chiller. 

Also as an L.A. Clipper, they share an arena with the L.A. Lakers. And so when it's a Clippers home game, it's not really a Clippers home game. That is Laker Nation at the Staples Center there. So he's used to home games not being home games. So I think he'll be totally fine. And I'm also super excited that there'll be no fans because Kawhi makes the weirdest noises when he goes to the back basket. It's like, oh [grunts], it's very strange and weird. So I can't wait to hear those noises without the fans being too loud.

Steph: I'm really excited to hear the players speak to each other more often. I'm excited to see a little bit of dialogue and get to hear more of those sport noises across all of these restarts. And keeping your theory here in mind, Ellen, similar to you, I think Kendall Jenner's on and off again flame Philadelphia 76er, Ben Simmons will do well too he's also more of a chiller. So going off your theory there, Ellen. 

I think he's also been working with a sports psychologist during covid-19 to help him with his confidence to shoot three points during a game which he's notoriously bad at and just didn't do. So it's going to be really cool to see how that turns out for him. And if this is true and he's seeing a sports psychologist, I'm all for men seeing psychologists more. Let's reward them. Let's put our bets on those men. Am I right?

Ellen: Totally all in, baby. And it'll be so great to see him hit a three pointer. I was actually living in Philly when Ben Simmons hit his first three pointer. And I think that the entire city was like, holy shit, Simmons did a three pointer. And so if he's just rattling those off in Orlando, like, oh baby, they're going to be excited down in Philly. But anyway, enough of the players who's going to win the championship.

Steph: Ok, Ellen, in the Western Conference, everyone seems to favor either of the L.A. teams, Lakers or the Clippers. But as an Eastern Conference girl, I obviously have to root for the defending champs, the always underestimated the beloved or my beloved Toronto Raptors. But Ellen, I feel like you as well as the rest of the Internet are going to shut me down here and say that the Milwaukee Bucks will take the Eastern Conference.

Ellen: Yes, I'm regrettably shutting you down. I love the Raptors, Raptors girl, love them through and through. But I just don't think that they have the star power to finish it off this year. I really don't think that they do. So what I'm anticipating is that it's going to be a Clippers, yes Clippers over Lakers and Bucks finals and I would bet on the Clippers to win. And, you know, I know that the Lakers are the favorite LeBron's on that team, but I just got to go back to Kawhi. He's amazing. And also, I think him and Paul George just kick it up another level in playoffs. It's like they're chill, chill, chill throughout the regular season and playoffs start and they're just off to the races.

Steph: Ok, let's get to hockey, the NHL is returning to play on Saturday, August 1st, with 24 teams playing. The top 12 from both of the conferences. Similar to the NBA, they're are also going with the bubble format, but instead of one city they're doing two. All Eastern Conference teams are in Toronto and all Western Conference teams are in Edmonton.

Ellen: Yeah, and we saw the teams arrive yesterday in their respective bubbles, in their suits and their masks and one thing that I was not expecting was guitars, which just seemed like everyone's picked that up as a hobby during coronavirus. And I just can't help but picture them sitting around in this hub place that they are either singing Folklore or the first thing that came to mind is actually Green Day is like "hope you have the time of your life" and they're all just kind of talking about 2020 and the hub city being such a gong show.

Steph: Oh my gosh. When I saw those photos on The GIST Instagram, I screamed because artistic hockey bros are my kryptonite. I can't, like game over for me.

Ellen: They are your type.

Steph: That's my type. Hasn't worked out for me so far, but you know, I'm keeping my options open. Ok, to recap, the NHL paused its season about a month before the playoffs were about to kick off. The format of the NHL is kind of same, same, but different to the NBA. It's a little bit more complicated. Instead of playing regular season games to determine seeding before the playoffs, the NHL has essentially separated out the top four teams in each conference from the other eight teams in each conference and are hosting a qualifying round and a round robin. 

The qualifying round series are between the teams seeded fifth to twelfth in each conference and will be a best of five series. The winners of those series will then join the top four teams in each conference. In the east those top four teams are Boston Bruins, Washington Capitals, Tampa Bay Lightning and the Philadelphia Flyers. In the west, St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and the Dallas Stars.

Ellen: I love how you said Boston Bruins there.

Steph: I have to say it and that's only way I could say it Ellen.

Ellen: Such disdain, such disdain. And actually of this mix, I'm super impressed and proud of, as much as I don't like them as a hockey fan, but because of living in Philly, I'm proud of it, The Philadelphia Flyers, I would have never expected them to be in the top four teams in the east. So just got to give the quick kudos to the Broad Street bullies.

Steph: And I'm happy for Gritty. I'm happy for him.

Ellen: Oh, yeah, the best guy.

Steph: Ok, stay with me here. While this qualifying round of the 5th to 12th seeded teams is going on, the top four teams that I just mentioned in each conference will be having Round-Robin playoff seeding games to determine where they rank between one to four in each conference. So they're really trying to make it count. After the qualifying round is done and the round robin seeding is done, then it's the actual playoffs that have a classic best of seven series. The playoffs are set to start on August 11th, when the Stanley Cup final series is set to start on September 22nd.

Ellen: All of that is confusing, but also makes sense in the way that you explained it. So we kind of have the qualifying round robin seeding and then the playoffs. And so, Steph, you're the hockey gal and I really want to know who do you think is going to win the Stanley Cup?

Steph: I'm very upset that you had to ask me this question, Ellen, but I guess I should get used to it. Because I know in my heart it's not going to be the Leafs and I feel like I'm betraying them by saying this. But I'm going to have to go with Tampa Bay Lightning. They have a top notch goalie, Andrei Vasilevskiy, who was voted the best goalie in the league last year. Tampa Bay is a favorite team as well, and now they're out of Florida. So things could look up for the team. And after quarantine, you know, it's anyone's game, really.

Ellen: It is anyone's game. But I do have to say Tampa really shit the bed last year and went out in the first round. So, I mean, they're a great squad, and I hope that you're right because, you know, Tampa could use some good news right now for sure. But I just got to say, I don't know they shit the bed last year, and I feel the same way about Toronto.

Like, obviously we want the Leafs to win. But also a really selfish part of me is like it can't be this year because celebrating in the streets after the Raptors won the NBA championship was probably one of the best nights in my life. And if we can't experience that because of what's happening from a quarantine perspective and having to be six feet apart from everyone, I'm totally fine. They should probably just blow it this year. That's going to be the theory if they don't win it's because they need to have a proper parade.

Steph: Oh, it's strategic for sure if they don't.

Ellen: Exactly. So, Tampa could win, but I really think that the Boston Bruins have a super good shot at winning this one or the Las Vegas Golden Knights. But I still think Boston, because they've been in the playoff mix for years and last year they lost to the St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup finals, so I think that they'll be out for vengeance in this one. The only thing that might hold them back is the home arena advantage. I have gone to a Bruins game before and it is the rowdiest wildest arena I've ever been in, those fans are so devout and I think that a lot of players, especially Brad Marchand, really vibe off the crowd energy and they'll be missing that.

Steph: I'm excited for Brad Marchand to have to miss something. He's not great. He's not a great guy. Altogether it's going to be really fun to have the NBA going, the NHL going, the WNBA going, let's not forget. MLS going and maybe MLB going at the same time. It'll be fun.

Ellen: It'll be so fun. And then the NFL starts in September. So it's so weird to have everything over the summer. But, hey, we'll take it.

Ellen: All right, so let's get talking about some other things in the sports world that have put a smile on our face lately, things that just make us go, wow, that was fun or that was funny or that was great.

Steph: On Instagram earlier this week, U.S. women's national soccer star and the only woman who almost has me, a Canadian girl buying an American jersey, Megan Rapinoe posted that she is in a new HBO documentary entitled Seeing America Alongside AOC, Hasan Minhaj and Nicole Hannah-Jones. It appears to be a one hour conversation. It's going to get political and it premieres this Saturday, August 1st, which is the same day that the NHL returns to play. It's just Stephanie's perfect day.

Ellen: The stars are aligning for you. Look at that.

Steph: Folklore who?

Ellen: That sounds so awesome. Ok, so I was going to say one fun thing, but I feel like I kind of want to say two fun things just because we've been talking about hockey. OK, quick fun thing first as we were talking about hockey watching a highlight today of the exhibition games between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins, it just really showed how sloppy hockey might be when it comes back. And maybe even the NBA is going to be a little bit sloppy when they come back. I mean, they've been off for so long, but, you know, standard in hockey, five players on the ice for each team. The Penguins made a line change and they had 10 players on the ice at one time. That's just not even something that you do in peewee hockey.

Steph: Oh, my gosh.

Ellen: I don't know how they did that. So that was kind of wow. That was fun, and also, you know, they're human. They make mistakes.

Steph: They're human too.

Ellen: And the main thing that I want to say that was so fun was the NWSL Challenge Cup ending on Sunday. Huge hats off to the Houston Dash for winning their first ever title. And this was also such a big deal because this was the first time that they were in the playoffs, which is pretty amazing to just be like boom in the playoffs, boom win the title. And I think, you know, they won the title, but also the NWSL and all of their organizers, all of their staff, everyone on the front line for that tournament did an unreal job. It was hosted in Salt Lake City, Utah, and they had no positive tests within the bubble, which is just outstanding. 

The Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) is now playing there. And I just had a chance to chat with someone at that league and they said that the NWSL left it in such a great place that now the PLL is just feeling so confident with their season because they did such a good job. So, you know, hats off to the NWSL. They're thinking of potentially bringing some additional matches this fall to the league so that they can really thrive off of this momentum. So, you know, just outstanding love seeing soccer doing so well.

Steph: Mm hmm. And let's hope the MLB is picking up the phone and calling the folks over at the NWSL. 

Steph: All right. That's The GIST of IT from Ellen and I. Thanks for tuning in. If you like what you heard, tell all your friends and subscribe to The GIST of IT on Apple podcast, Spotify, Google player, Stitcher. And while you're there, please rate us five stars and leave a review.

Ellen: And in case you missed it, The GIST creates sports content, experiences and community that's by women and for all sports fans. If you like what you heard today, you have to check out our free twice weekly newsletter where every Monday and Thursday morning we give you the gist of what's going on in the sports world. If you haven't yet subscribe at thegistsports.com. Otherwise, if you want to get in touch with I, email us at pod@thegistsports.com or DM us on Instagram @thegistnews.ca or @thegistusa. I'm Ellen Hyslop.

Steph: And I'm Steph Rotz.

Ellen: And this has been The GIST of It. See you next Wednesday. 

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