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FAUST: The Day Hockey was Paused

Alex Faust's first-person perspective on the last game at STAPLES Center before the NHL paused its season

by Alex Faust @alex_faust / LAKings.com

I had been in denial.

And it all changed in an instant.

The news hit about 45 minutes before puck drop. The NBA was suspending its season. My heart sank. My stomach churned. I knew in that instant there was no possible way forward.

Seeing that news bulletin feels like this generation's 'where-were-you-when-it-happened' moment. I was shaken to the core. Honestly, I'm surprised I held it together for the broadcast that night.

In the days before, I legitimately thought there was no reason to incite panic. Cancelling things out of an abundance of caution was causing more panic, I recall saying.

I kept telling myself: somehow, sports are different. We find solutions to problems. Even the possibility of playing games without fans seemed okay in the short term.

And yes, in the days and weeks leading up to March 11th, I had seen the news. When I was in Melbourne covering the Australian Open, the outbreak in Wuhan was just beginning to spiral out of control. It startled those just returning from their summer vacations around Asia -- especially families with children, as the school year was scheduled to begin.

My response prior to Wednesday night? "Wash your damn hands."

Living in the bubble of professional hockey, I had assumed we could persevere through this. This is the toughest sport on earth, right? Sports serve as a diversion, a source of unification, a positive tonic even in the darkest times of trouble. The show had to go on, right?

And selfishly, as a healthy 31-year-old working amongst healthy, high-performance athletes, my thought process was: why should I worry?

The swift news from the NBA shattered that veneer of courage.

Instead of worrying about getting sick myself, I started thinking about the consequences of interacting with so many people on a daily basis: even if we don't get sick, what if we inadvertently contribute to the spread?

During our broadcast Wednesday night, the big picture was inescapable. There was an eerie feeling in the building, especially with such a sparse crowd (easily the smallest I've seen since joining the Kings).

Life - not just sports - was about to change.

I was hoping the game would never end. After a series of whistles in the second period, it almost felt that way: a few icings, a few offside calls, a few pucks out of play. If it were an ordinary Game 70 in a non-playoff year, I would have been miming to Jim off-air that I was falling asleep.

But I wanted nothing more than to be calling THAT game at THAT moment in time. I hoped we had a stoppage-filled overtime and a 20-round shootout. Maybe a pane of glass could've broken somewhere along the way, too. I just didn't want to leave. I'm sure many of you didn't want to either.

12 hours later, the inevitable became reality. The NHL season was on hold, too.

Tweet from @LAKings: https://t.co/pGuzI4E7FG

What's been driven home in the days since is the fact that we're all in this together: if all of us practice social distancing, if all of us take preventative measures, if all of us remain vigilant, then collectively all of us can bring a return to normalcy faster.

If, through these sacrifices, all of us can collectively reduce the spread and take care of the pandemic as a team.

If we do, we'll have hockey back before we know it.

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