Every Sunday at Peng to the Point, we talk about the world away from the San Jose Sharks.
Hamby Shore was the first NHL player to die in a pandemic.
This week, 102 years ago, three-time Stanley Cup winner Hamby Shore succumbed to the influenza epidemic of 1918. The Ottawa Senators fan favorite was just 32.
Seven months later, the Montreal Canadiens’ Joe Hall caught influenza during the 1919 Stanley Cup Final, dying just four days after the cancellation of the series.
Shore and Hall were just two of the about 50 million who died because of this pandemic.
There’s two reasons why I’m bringing this up: First, to commemorate Shore’s October 13, 1918 death. Second, as a reminder as professional and college sports in North America hurry back to action.
And sure, the COVID-19 pandemic is not the influenza epidemic of 1918. Though looking at raw mortality numbers — over 1.1 million dead worldwide because of the coronavirus, per John Hopkins, may not paint the full picture of its deadliness compared to 1918.
But anyway, sports are going to push forward — in its halting, start-and-stop manner — as it did 102 years ago.
Our sport of choice is a prime example of this.
The 1919 Stanley Cup Final was canceled after five games, but otherwise, the league completed its 1918-19 and 1919-20 seasons.
This year, the NHL regular season was shortened, but six months later, the 2020 Stanley Cup Final was completed in a bubble.
Commissioner Gary Bettman hopes to begin the 2020-21 campaign in January, three months after the customary October opening night.
So sports isn’t going away — but neither is the coronavirus.
The 102nd anniversary of Shore’s death is a stark reminder: Athletes, as young and healthy as they are, can very much be vulnerable to COVID-19.
A recent — admittedly small-scale — study suggested that individuals who have experienced COVID-19 are more susceptible to myocarditis, a potentially fatal inflammation of the heart muscle. Essentially, heart damage may be a price to play for some athletes.
Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid are among the NHL superstars who are known to have tested positive for COVID-19.
There’s of course a lot we’re still learning about the novel coronavirus. The myocarditis study is hardly conclusive.
But remember Hamby Shore: One successful playoff bubble doesn’t mean the NHL is immune to the still-raging pandemic.