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The coronavirus pandemic has shut down the NHL indefinitely. What now?

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To say we’re in uncharted territory is an understatement. More like we’re flying to Neptune without a map.

Detroit Red Wings v Carolina Hurricanes Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

My daughter lost her first tooth last night.

That might be an odd way to start an article about what is almost certainly the most head-spinningly surreal few days any of us have ever dealt with, but in the midst of the cacophony surrounding the spread of the coronavirus, I keep reminding myself that life still goes on, rites of passage still happen (whether you’re ready for them or not) and, yes, the tooth fairy had to shell out a five-dollar bill last night because that was all she had in her wallet.

Remember, a few years ago, when the eruption of a volcano in Iceland - whose name I couldn’t even begin to try to spell - shut down transatlantic air travel for weeks? That felt unprecedented at the time. Compared to this, though, it looks about as precedented (is that a word?) as a traffic jam on I-40 at 5:00 on a Tuesday.

This is probably the most rambling prose with which I’ve ever started a column, but honestly it does me good to kind of brain dump on the screen here. There’s so much information that at some point it just becomes too overwhelming to process.

That’s probably how the Carolina Hurricanes feel right now too. In the aftermath of the NHL suspending operations - “pausing,” to use the league’s phrase - you probably have a whole lot of questions. So do we. And, honestly, so does the team. There are a lot of contingency plans, but the contingency plan for our current situation is literally being written on the fly. It changes hour by hour, in some cases minute by minute.

How will the Canes handle pre-sold tickets? Refunds are presumably going to be arranged. But how will fans get them? What about people that bought them through ticket re-sellers? How will season ticket members get their tickets to any rearranged games later in the season, if it does resume?

What about the health of the team? Do they need to self-quarantine given that they were inside a facility on Tuesday that two nights prior had hosted a basketball game featuring a team that has had two players test positive for the virus? Is there anyone exhibiting symptoms? How about fans who may have been in the fan tunnel or otherwise interacted with the team prior to, or during, the road trip?

Will part-time workers at PNC Arena be able to make ends meet with the league shut down and no events taking place, and with no paychecks for the foreseeable future?

What about the salary cap? Will the NHL and NHLPA put the antagonistic rhetoric to the side and actually negotiate a deal to preserve a higher cap in the face of lower hockey-related revenue as a result of postponed games? And could that lead to a broader spirit of cooperation that - gasp! - could end with a CBA negotiation void of contentiousness? (Hey, if you want a silver lining out of this, there’s one possibility.)

If the season does resume, what will the playoffs look like? Will there be playoffs? Are we going to try to play the remainder of the schedule, maybe not in the same order but by facing the same teams? If not, but if the playoffs do happen, what will the league use to determine qualification? According to Gary Bettman, the intention is still to award the Stanley Cup; by what process will the league do so, if they can?

When will the season resume? We’re all over here hoping it does, but Tom Dundon’s exact words to Adam and Joe on 99.9 this afternoon, “I hope it’s just a month,” were somewhat ominous.

We don’t know. I would venture a guess that even the people we would normally ask the answers to these questions don’t know. Once we know answers, we’ll provide them, but we won’t know them for a while, I’d guess.

In a way, it looked bad that the NHL was seemingly dithering while conference tournaments, the NBA, and other sports entities canceled or suspended their events and seasons. But I think that the league deserves a bit of kudos for trying to get some semblance of a plan together, instead of dropping the news out of the sky the way the NBA did last night. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban found out that his team’s season was suspended on his cell phone while sitting courtside last night. Even a delay of an hour or two would have prevented that bad look from ever taking place.

Here at the end, I’ll editorialize a bit. First off, Dundon was wishy-washy about helping PNC Arena part-timers out to make ends meet, saying that these are conversations he’s having with many of his businesses right now. Come on, Tom. Do the right thing. Don’t wordsmith your way out of it. Help these people out.

Second, please realize that these cancellations, suspensions and the like are not about you. They’re about preventing the spread of a virus that has proven to spread very, very quickly. You personally are unlikely to get sick. But the likelihood that someone gets sick is high, and that’s what the leagues are trying to prevent. Again: it’s not about you. It’s about society at large, and in a world where “social distancing” is almost certainly going to be the word of the year, the gatekeepers to the events where the most people come together anywhere in the United States have a social responsibility to everyone involved: fans, players, officials, staff, employees. That’s why we’re at where we’re at.

As for us, we’re going to take a day to try to settle down and wrap our head around everything that’s happened recently. I don’t know about anyone else, but trying to provide #content is the furthest thing from my mind right now, and I could use a day to clear my head. I think we all could.

We’ll probably be back over the weekend with a Storm Advisory, and next week we’ll probably come up with some frivolity to pass the time. (It’s not like there’s going to be any news anywhere across the league for the next little while, anyway.)

In the meantime, be good to each other, wash your freaking hands, and check on your neighbors and friends. We’re all in this together.