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As coronavirus numbers rise, when will MLB, NBA, NHL return?

Yankee Stadium. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

Two weeks certainly feel much longer, now. 

As a byproduct of the coronavirus pandemic that has killed thousands and affected hundreds of thousands more, sports around the world have screeched to a halt. 

Taking a step back, it’s nothing more than a trivial casualty of the times. 

Priority No. 1 is for world leaders to find the proper steps needed to eradicate the spread of an incurable virus and ensure the safety and well-being of us all. 

In turn, it’s our responsibility to stay inside, practice social distancing, and wash our hands — it’s troubling how difficult that last part is for some people.

As we execute our national duty of staying home and avoiding everyone — a dream for introverts everywhere — the absence of sports hits especially hard.

Sports have always been a great equalizer in the United States. It has provided a release, an escape for the masses amidst troubling times. 

New York City had Mike Piazza’s game-winning home run against the Braves after Sept. 11. 

New Orleans had the Saints return to the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina. 

Japan won the Women’s World Cup in 2011 after a 9.0 earthquake left the country in ruin.

The Red Sox won the World Series after the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. 

The Astros took a tainted title four years later after Hurricane Harvey ransacked Houston.

Sports take our minds off the anxiety, moves it away from the mundane, and at times, saves us from ourselves. 

That’s what makes these times so unprecedented, so peculiar. Not even sports could carry us through the outbreak of COVID-19. 

On the night of Mar. 11, the NBA postponed its season after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus. The next day, MLS, MLB, and the NHL postponed their activities. 

Soon after, the NCAA Tournament that grips the nation throughout March was completely canceled. 

Both the European and South American soccer championships were postponed until next summer with the Tokyo Summer Olympics finally following suit on Tuesday. 

Thursday marks another hallowed sporting day officially lost, as Major League Baseball’s Opening Day is nothing more than another idle weekday. 

So we will continue to sit at our windows and wait for the anticipated, symbolic arrival of spring with the return of our favorite sports. 

When will that day come? I wish I knew, but here is what we do know about the potential return of North America’s active “Big 4” leagues.

MLB

After Opening Day was initially pushed back by two weeks, Major League Baseball won’t restart until May 10 the earliest. However, that might be too optimistic of a date. 

According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, league officials have pointed out the possibility of the season starting as late as July, which would be when MLB’s All-Star Game is usually scheduled.

For an earlier start, games would have to be played without fans while a second spring training would be an abbreviated one. 

NBA

With roughly 15 games remaining in its regular season, the current belief is that the NBA will pick back up in mid-to-late June.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, however, told WFAA Dallas that he is hopeful that games could be played by the middle of May — a month earlier than the perceived return date. 

That would most likely mean games without fans, too, unless a bona fide way of stifling the virus is found. A vaccine won’t be available for 12-18 months. 

NHL

The NHL has remained steadfast in its initial returning forecast after shutting things down on March 12. 

With players directed to remain in self-quarantine until March 27, the NHL will be hoping to re-open team facilities for players to stay in shape. 

Approximately 45 days into the 60-day shutdown period suggested by the CDC, training camp would start to begin ramping up toward the regular season, which suggests that we would be looking at a mid-May return of hockey. 

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