I fully expected the Toronto Maple Leafs to defeat the Columbus Blue Jackets in the fifth-and-deciding game of their preliminary round, National Hockey League playoff series.
After all, the Leafs had stunned Columbus in Game 4 with an improbable 4-3 overtime win after rallying from a 3-0 deficit with less than four minutes to play in the third period.
But what I didn’t expect — aside from the Leafs coming up flat in a 3-0 loss in Game 5 — was that players from both teams would remove their gloves and shake hands following the decisive match.
Now I realize that it is normal for players to shake hands at the end of a playoff series. But these are not normal times, given the COVID-19 pandemic.
Not normal in the sense that fans are not allowed in arenas because of COVID-19.
Not normal in the sense of these days of social distancing, wearing masks and sanitizing.
Not normal that all playoff games are being played in hub cities.
But here were the Maple Leafs and Blue Jackets, up close and personal, not wearing face masks — and actually removing their gloves to shake hands.
Should there be a COVID-19 breakout among players because of this, it could not only halt play during these NHL playoffs but it could also affect the start — or cancellation — of the 2020-2021 amateur hockey season throughout Canada and the United States.
I still can’t believe the NHL is allowing this to happen. And I still can’t believe the players are actually doing it.
Can’t they just skip the handshakes, at least for now?