When the Covid-19 virus first broke out, it caught everyone off-guard. Or at least no one was prepared for it to unfold the way it did. As everyone grasped the level of magnitude, professional league organizers and governments took no risk. All sporting events worldwide came to a sudden halt. For us, sports bettors, there was little to nothing left to bet on in sportsbooks. All we were left to bet on was Esports, Table Tennis and Belarusian Soccer. A far cry from the NHL and NBA.
Luckily, it didn’t take too long until restrictions for professional sports events got lifted. To ensure that responsibility was taken and to lower risks, the concept of sports bubbles was introduced. Notably, in North America, all major sports except for the NFL were finished inside bubbles and hubs, isolated from the rest of the world. Besides some minor interruptions to the schedule, matches were played continuously. Very few cases of Covid-19 were reported, which proves that the bubble concept was very successful.
The upcoming season in both NHL and NBA is also planned to take place inside sports bubbles. This will ensure a continuity of the leagues despite the ongoing pandemic. Fortunately, all matches are broadcasted for us to watch, follow and bet on. Watching sports and betting on sports has been a great way to deal with lockdowns and social distancing.
NHL bubbles and hubs
The bubbles for NHL are situated in Canada in two different locations; Edmonton, Rogers Place, and Toronto, Scotiabank Arena. Western Conference teams stay in Edmonton, and Eastern Conference teams stay in Toronto. Teams, team staff, and bubble personnel are required to stay within the areas. Teams vacate hotels that are connected to practice facilities, dining areas, leisure areas, and of course, the arenas where matches are played.
Each NHL team is allowed to bring 31 players each and a total of 52 people, including management, coaches and staff inside the bubble. No guests are allowed. Every day Covid-19 testing is performed on all the people inside the bubble. Outside exercising, playing, eating, and drinks, everyone must wear protective masks at all times. Generally, social distancing should be practiced whenever possible. If anyone develops symptoms of Covid-19, they are required to self-isolate and undergo medical examinations and testing. If anyone tests positive, they are to self-isolate in their hotel room or designated secure areas.
People inside the bubble can leave a secure zone in specific cases, such as medical reasons, childbirth, or other family events. Upon returning to the bubble, the person must stay quarantined for a minimum of four days.
Teams practice daily, and up to six matches can be played in each city per day.
The start date of the 2020/2021 NHL regular season is tentatively set to December 1st, 2020. So, we can expect betting options as usual for the upcoming season despite the Covid-19 pandemic.
NBA bubble and hub
We are about one month away from the start of the next NBA season. Adam Silver recently announced that the league has a tentative start date of December 22nd, 2020. The 2020/2021 NBA season will again be played at Disneyland in Orlando. So let’s hope that we get many sports betting options for Christmas presents around the holidays this year.
The concept of the NBA bubble is the same as that of the NHL. The location is different, being played in Orlando, at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at the Walt Disney Resort. The site is ideal. When Walt Disney pitched the idea to the NBA, they took it up right away. The infrastructure supports everything the NBA needs and keeps everyone inside the bubble isolated from the outside world. It is a win/win situation really, as Disney could not allow guests at the time and now found occupants for their facilities.
The different arenas are used for practices and playing NBA matches. The arenas are largely empty except for very few media people, management, and NBA union personnel. Inactive players are also allowed to watch from the stands.
Teams and personnel are staying in three different hotels; the Gran Destino Tower, the Grand Floridian and the Yacht Club. For the previous season, teams were assigned rooms and hotels based on their standing in the league tables. The top four seeds got to stay in the most luxurious hotel. It’s unknown how living arrangements will be determined for the 2020/2021 NBA season. Amenities in the bubble include swimming pools, golf courses, and leisure lounges.
Same as with other sports, everyone is tested regularly but not necessarily daily. If someone tests positive, they’ll be placed in a secure zone, receive medical attention, and checks along with being isolated for 14 days. It’s unclear if guests are allowed inside the NBA bubble. During the previous season, authorized guests were allowed during the playoffs but not during the regular season. Strict rules about quarantines and testing apply to anyone planning to enter the bubble. Players can leave with the league’s approval, such as medical emergencies or family events.
And yes, there is a snitch hotline set up inside the bubble. Players can anonymously tell on anybody who breaks the rules of the NBA Bubble. Anyone found to be violating the rules will receive fines, suspensions, or even removal from the bubble.
MLB bubbles and hubs
The latest MLB season was just concluded where the Los Angeles Dodgers emerged as champions. The playoffs were played through inside MLB bubbles. For MLB, the bubbles were spread out across four different locations in the US; Los Angeles, San Diego, Texas and Houston.
Upon first entering the bubbles, all players and personnel were required to quarantine. Following the quarantine process, players were restricted to their hotels whenever they were not inside the ballparks. Covid-19 testing was carried out daily. No guests were allowed, and players could only leave in emergencies upon approval from the MLB.
NFL bubbles and hubs
At this point, the NFL is still in regular-season play with no plans of finishing the season inside bubbles. Instead, teams adhere to strict procedures and protocols to minimize the risk of contracting or spreading the coronavirus while also traveling back and forth to locations all over North America to play matches. At least they are going to attempt to finish the season outside a bubble.
There are talks about a playoff bubble, and if so, we would likely see four different bubbles based on geography, with one each for; AFC East, NFC East, AFC North and NFC North. Based on that, the arena contenders would be:
- East Bubble: Syracuse, New York, Carrier Dome
- West Bubble: St. Louis, Missouri, The Dome
- North Bubble: Indianapolis, Indiana, Lucas Oil Stadium
- South Bubble: Birmingham Alabama, Legion Field
The infrastructure and procedures will likely be similar to that of the NHL.
Lessons to be learned by all sports organizers worldwide
While all the leagues’ goals are to either finish current seasons or start next seasons in the coming month to succeed, they need to learn all the lessons from the very successful NHL and NBA bubbles. In both leagues, the amount of Covid-19 cases were kept at a minimum while play continued uninterrupted. Sports bettors all over Canada should cross their fingers and toes that leagues continue as expected, so we get a non-stop offering of events and betting markets to bet on. Considering the proven success of the bubble concept, all other countries and leagues outside of the US should try and replicate what the NHL and NBA did to ensure uninterrupted play of all major sports worldwide.