Some NJ professional sports teams start preparing for competition

BY Michael Hill, Correspondent |

Professional sports had been kicking around when to come back amid the pandemic.

“We’re actually starting training today, so this is really exciting for us. There’s been a lot been done behind the scenes in terms of safety to make sure that this is the right decision at the right time for us,” said Alyse LaHue, general manager for Sky Blue Football Club.

Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order allows professional teams in the state, like New Jersey’s Sky Blue Football Club of the National Women’s Soccer League to pick up where the pandemic shoved them to life’s sidelines. Sky Blue is owned by the Murphys.

The league is closer to competition than any other team sport in the United States. The resumption allows groups of eight to train, up from individual workouts. Sky Blue has planned a rigorous set of protocols.

“It’s even as simple as spacing out where you park your cars so you’re not parking next to each other,” said LaHue. “They’ll be no access to the locker rooms at this time. They essentially drive to the training facility, park the car, you get out, you’ll have your hands sanitized on site, you’ll have your temperature checked, you go through a checklist of symptoms and how you feel that day. And they’ll proceed straight to the field and essentially be spaced out in quadrants.”

Women’s soccer is preparing for an Olympic-type challenge this summer in Utah.

“It’s exciting to finally have something to actually train for,” LaHue said.

Maybe no fans and maybe no players from the 2019 World Cup championship team, like Carli Lloyd or Mallory Pugh, because of health concerns.

“Both of them in my conversations have been very excited about the possibility to return to competition and their opportunities to get back on the field. I really can only really speak to my experience here at Sky Blue and with my club. But I will say it’s been really important to allow the players to make their own decisions about this. This can’t feel like we are forcing the players to come participate,” said LaHue.

The New York Red Bulls, who play their matches in Harrison, had been holding individual workouts and now can graduate to group practices.

The National Hockey League’s top 24 teams might head straight to the playoffs. That would exclude the NJ Devils and end their season, but make the Philadelphia Flyers a top seed.

The Giants say they’re finalizing plans to reopen their Quest Diagnostics Training Center next week while many employees still will work remotely.

The New York Jets say they’ll reopen their facility in Florham Park in phases and when it’s most practical for their operations.

Andy Vasquez is the Jets beat writer for The Record.

“This clears the way for training camp to start on time and I think that’s the most exciting thing about it. You would not have thought New Jersey would be a state that would be this early in allowing for something like that to happen considering how hard we’ve been hit. What it’s going to look like with fans and stuff, that is a long ways away and remains to be seen, but I do think training camp will start on time,” said Vasquez.

That would be in July, which is the same time the NBA could resume competition but with playoffs to cap its abbreviated season in Orlando, Florida. For live action, team competition-starved sports fans, the summer — with soccer, baseball, hockey, basketball and football all in play — could be the opposite of spring’s reliving of glory with reruns.