A live major league sports championship to watch this weekend

Despite coronavirus chaos, Major League Lacrosse is ready to name its 20th champion on Sunday.

Major League Lacrosse condensed its 2020 season into a week-long tournament that started on July 18 to avoid any long-term complications from COVID-19. While other leagues like the MLB are ready to start their season after a long-awaited standstill, the MLL is ready to crown its victor.

To do so, a team had to win seven games in nine days, until a positive coronavirus test threw the league for a loop.

The Boston Cannon, Chesapeake Bayhawks, Connecticut Hammerheads and Denver Outlaws were primed to play in today’s playoffs until one undisclosed player tested positive for coronavirus late last night. The individual was immediately placed in quarantine.

After the league discovered the positive test, it tested all at-risk players early Saturday morning.

Each playoff game that was supposed to take place today was cancelled. The MLL has allowed each team to independently decide on how to proceed.

After receiving the results, the Chesapeake Bayhawks and the Connecticut Hammerheads have forfeited, leaving the Denver Outlaws and Boston Cannons to fight for the title.

Despite the mishap, the MLL was well prepared for a positive test and to prevent its spread thanks to the league’s new guidelines and technology.

All six teams arrived at their hotel in the bubble’s base in Annapolis on July 16 for a two-day training camp before kicking off official play. All players, coaches and staff have individual rooms at The Westin Annapolis with a hospitality area for meals. They must also dress for games at the hotel to eliminate any use of locker rooms.

The players are bused straight from the hotel to the Navy—Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, where they play without fans.

MLL Commissioner Alexander Brown assured the players and coaches that their health and safety is the league’s top priority.

“I consulted with a few other commissioners, in particular [NBA Commissioner] Adam Silver, on the things that they were doing, and that was very instructive,” Brown told US Lacrosse Magazine. “We even went to the Bundesliga, who developed a comprehensive document on COVID protocol.”

That is why when the one individual tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, all MLL players and personnel were placed in quarantine until the league knew which individuals were at risk through contact tracing.

The MLL also complied to regulations from and coordinated closely with the Naval Academy, Governor’s Office, County Executive and Mayor’s Office to get the approval they needed to play. But they didn’t put players on the field without the necessary equipment.

Major League Lacrosse worked closely with equipment partner Cascade to create a fully clear face shield to attach to the exterior of the helmets to limit the spread of respiratory particles. Essentially, it’s a face mask for a helmet. Face masks are also worn by any individual on the sideline and each team lines up on different sides of the field to maximize social distancing.

Now that the players are on the field and are one of the few professional leagues playing live, they’ve gotten more fan attention than ever. This is especially true in the Northeast, the predominant geographical region of the league.

“Maryland fans are hungry for live sports to begin again, and we are thrilled to be working with Major League Lacrosse and the Chesapeake Bayhawks to make it a reality,” Executive Director of Maryland Sports Terry Hasseltine said in an early July Bayhawks release.

After Chesapeake’s forfeit, Maryland fans will have to wait another year to see the Bayhawks back in full swing.

The 2020 championship between Denver and Boston will air Sunday at 11 a.m. PST on ESPN.

This story was updated on July 25 at 4:40 p.m to reflect changes to the MLL Championship due to COVID-19 cases.