If these were normal times, Chicago sports fans would be enjoying a calendar packed with games this month. Cubs, White Sox, Fire and more. Plenty of live action on TV. Exciting games to attend in person with thousands of cheering fans.
All that’s on hold during the coronavirus pandemic, which has wreaked havoc on professional sports schedules here and around the country.
Still, there are a few (slightly) hopeful signs of several leagues returning to some form of action in the near future. So this seems like a good time to update where things stand with Chicago’s teams and their schedules. If you have tickets for games that were canceled or postponed, contact the team to see what its policy is on credits or refunds.
The North Siders were in spring training with new manager David Ross when Major League Baseball suspended games on March 12, then indefinitely delayed the season that was scheduled to begin March 26.
This week, MLB pitched a proposal to the players’ union that could lead to the season starting around the Fourth of July weekend — but with no fans in the seats. Before that, “spring” training would start in early to mid-June.
Each team would play about 82 regular-season games against opponents in its own division plus interleague matchups limited to AL East vs. NL East, AL Central vs. NL Central and AL West vs. NL West. Postseason play would be expanded from 10 clubs to 14 by doubling wild cards in each league to four.
But we won’t hear “Play ball!” anywhere until MLB, owners and players can agree on a salary plan. Owners are backing a proposal that would have players receive the percentage of their 2020 salaries based on a 50-50 split of revenues MLB gets during the regular season and postseason.
Sox fans are excited about seeing a team that remade itself during a busy offseason, signing multiple free agents including catcher Yasmani Grandal, trading for outfielder Nomar Mazara and extending the contract of slugger Jose Abreu.
As for any games at Guaranteed Rate Field — or Wrigley Field, for that matter — Sox fan and Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said she would consider any MLB plan to play games this summer so long as it can be done safely.
Chicago’s Major League Soccer team was two games into the regular season (one draw and one loss) and eager to make a much-anticipated return to Soldier Field as their home stadium on March 21. Then, MLS suspended play on March 12.
The postponement of all league matches is expected to last until at least June 8, the Fire website says. But wait — MLS may be working on a Disney happy ending to save the season.
The Washington Post reported this week that MLS is thinking of moving all 26 teams to Orlando this summer and playing games without fans at a Disney/ESPN sports complex. The teams would be quarantined at a Walt Disney World resort.
MLS wants to play the entire 2020 season, “and is evaluating all options, including pushing back the end of the season and playing MLS Cup in December or later,” a Fire statement says.
MLS teams were allowed to start individual workouts on outdoor training fields as of May 6.
After reaching the National Women’s Soccer League final for the first time in their history last season (they lost to North Carolina 4-0) the Red Stars were revved up for the season scheduled to begin April 18. But the league postponed the start and is looking to begin games at the end of June.
As of May 6, teams were allowed to hold individual workouts on their outdoor training fields. A moratorium on full team training remains in place through Friday.
The Red Stars have been working to maintain fan interest by selling a new jersey that’s Chicago neighborhoods-centric, and by staying active on social media.
The Bulls had struggled to a 22-43 record in the 2019-2020 season when the NBA suspended games on March 14. They were in 11th place in the Eastern Conference at the time.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver hasn’t given a forecast of when games could resume, but the league has talked about the possibility of resuming a season without fans and playing at a centralized site. (Sorry, looks like Orlando may be taken.)
The Associated Press reported this week that a poll of NBA players taken by their union shows “overwhelming” support for any plan that kick-starts the season in a safe way. The survey was informal but was a clear sign that players would like to save at least some of the regular season and keep the playoffs alive.
The NBA took tiny steps toward a return to normalcy last week, as a small number of practice facilities reopened for workouts and at least one team received permission to test players and staff for the coronavirus.
The WNBA put the brakes on the regular season that was scheduled to begin Friday and run to September 20. The league says it’s doing “scenario-planning regarding new start dates and innovative formats,” but no plans have been announced.
The WNBA draft went ahead last month, albeit virtually, and the Sky got Oregon forward and Chicago native Ruthy Hebard with the eighth pick. Fans will have to wait until further notice to see Hebard and the rest of the Sky play at Wintrust Arena.
The Hawks were 32-30-8 and ranked 7th in the Central Division when the NHL postponed the season on March 12. The league still hasn’t decided when to allow players to return to training facilities for small group workouts, which would be the first step toward a return. The NHL says it’s working on various scenarios, including resuming games at three or four empty arenas and pushing the start of next season back to December.
The draft scheduled for June 26-27 was postponed, but now the league is considering holding it earlier in the month. That would create headaches: Teams wouldn’t be able to trade players, there would be a lack of clarity over next year’s salary cap and the draft order would be determined before all games are played.
BearsThe dates of the Bears’ upcoming preseason games are TBD, and they’re scheduled to begin the regular season on September 13 at Detroit. The Bears’ opener at Soldier Field is September 20 against the Giants.
NFL teams normally would be holding Organized Team Activities (OTAs) this month and minicamps in June. The league has extended its virtual offseason workouts through the end of May, AP reported this week. Coaching and training staff have been working with players by holding classroom instruction and on-field activities through digital applications instead of at team facilities, which have been closed since late March.
The league’s 32 teams must submit plans for reopening their facilities to the NFL by Friday, but no dates for reopenings are set. According to a memo to teams, the league will inform them about how to proceed with on-field activities “in the event club facilities reopen at some point in June.” The NFL says it would work with medical advisers to establish protocols for reopening facilities.
The Associated Press contributed.