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Frei: At least under normal circumstances, NHL has the right idea about a holiday break. The NBA? Well…



Depending on the definition of terms, I also enjoyably “covered” the NBA as a beat writer, columnist and magazine scribe for more than a decade. Beyond chronicling the Nuggets and Trail Blazers, that includes Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird and exhilarating Michael Jordan shows in NBA Finals.

So I’m not entirely an NHL “homer.”

On the issue of a holiday break, though, I give the NHL credit for — however grudgingly — doing it right with its annual three-day shutdown from December 24-26.

In contrast, the NBA’s scheduled dawn to midnight slate of nationally televised games on Christmas Day just seems tacky.

(Dawn to midnight? OK, I’m exaggerating. But not by much. It’s five Christmas NBA games on the Saturday schedule, starting at 10 a.m. MST, with the fifth scheduled to tip-off at 8:30 p.m.)

The circumstances this year, with COVID issues wreaking renewed havoc in both leagues, changes the picture considerably, of course. The NHL tweaked the break, shutting down early and planning to have teams reassemble on Sunday (the 26th) before resuming with 14 scheduled games on the 27th.

That was the plan, anyway.

On Friday came the word that games wouldn’t resume until at least Tuesday, the 28th, when four are on the schedule, and even that sounded iffy.

Under the original CBA outline, teams reassembled the 27th, even if playing that night, and the road team traveled on the day of the game. Teams still will reassemble and can practice Sunday afternoon, and the major question is how COVID testing will go for the reassembled teams. Postponing Monday’s games allows some wiggle room.

So while the Avalanche are scheduled to reconvene Sunday afternoon,  their next game at the earliest won’t be until Wednesday, the 29th, at Ball Arena. If they play that night, the Avalanche will have had 12 days off between games.

The Nuggets and the NBA? The league’s Christmas games, now and historically as the number has increased, are all about TV. They’re major attractions of lucrative national deals with networks. In the past, one rationalization was “cabin fever” on the holiday. (The Nuggets, though, didn’t draw one of the Christmas games and don’t play until Monday against the Clippers at Arena.)

The NHL’s packages don’t carry that kind of clout.

So this isn’t necessarily about noble motives.

Again, the break is part of the CBA.

It also isn’t necessarily about religion of choice (if any) or Christmas itself.

It’s about a holiday break. Anybody’s holiday. Everybody’s holidays. Step back. Reflect. Take a deep breath. Be with family, if possible. That’s not meant to join into a PC chorus, but to recognize the diversity of faiths and even holidays.

Here’s hoping the NHL resumes playing Tuesday.

After the holiday break.

Terry Frei ( is a Denver-based author and journalist. He has been named a state’s sports writer of the year seven times in peer voting — four times in Colorado and three times in Oregon. His seven books include the novels “Olympic Affair” and “The Witch’s Season.” Among his five non-fiction works are “Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming,” “Third Down and a War to Go,” “March 1939: Before the Madness,” and “’77: Denver, the Broncos, and a Coming of Age.” He also collaborated with Adrian Dater on “Save By Roy,” was a long-time vice president of the Professional Hockey Writers Association and has covered the hockey Rockies, Avalanche and the NHL at-large. His web site is and his bio is available at

His Colorado Hockey Now column archive can be accessed here

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