The Latest On Hockey’s Limbo

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Well, is it official? The East Coast Hockey League has canceled its season, the NHL has canceled theirs, but the CHL and other groups are in a much tougher spot.

Forget that the Memorial Cup is supposed to be in Kelowna from May 21-31 and that the playoffs would start in a couple weeks; the bigger issue is what happens to the overage players and draft eligible. 

The end of the season and playoffs is a chance for scouts to make their final determination on if they feel the player is a person to draft, sign or have as an invite. Those are the criteria for the draft eligible players. For average players, it’s even tougher. Did they do enough to get another look? The playoffs would help, especially if they look strong enough in that time, as invites and drafting can happen. It has happened to a few players. 

Then there is the issue of school. With the season on hold, the issue is also now involving continued education and where they might seek it. Some will continue to play hockey and seek out a program that allows that, others are finished playing and look for a place to study only and others are forced to stop because of archaic rules within the NCAA that prevent CHL players from playing at an American University because they were receiving money to assist with expenses while living here. 

We won’t even get started on the NCAA baseball, basketball and football booster clubs, which make oodles of cash and even though the players don’t get paid have somehow managed to live fairly well. Overall fairness is not always right in front of one and is the reason why we are starting to see players receive payments for likenesses that groups and teams were making huge money on—but that is for another time and column.

The CHL has quietly let the European players make their way home and it sounds like local players are doing the same thing. Kishaun Gervais of the Portland Winterhawks posted this a few days ago…

Hey, everyone! I asked Alicia if I could be put in the group for a few hours to try to sell some hoodies but I thought it would be a great time to say thank you. With the exception of the coronavirus and teams getting sent home there’s a possibility we could too, so I just wanted to say thank you for being the greatest fans and for all the tremendous support in my first year. You guys have made this the best place I’ve ever played hockey and made it an absolute blast to play in front of you every night, I love you all and if this season doesn’t continue I will see you next year and will try to bring the energy and the excitement every night! Go Hawks

Gregg Drinnan, former sports editor for the Kamloops Daily News has been keeping his ear to the floor on this one and posted information from Pierre LeBrun on the status of the NHL as a whole. To date, the NHL has instructed its teams to pay all AHL players. The ECHL (East Coast Hockey League), which is a level below the AHL, has canceled its season. In Juniors the MJHL and SJH, representing Manitoba and Saskatchewan have also canceled their seasons; they make up 2/5 of the RBC Cup similar to the Memorial Cup but a couple levels down. Earlier, prior to the shutdown of every league, Bellingham and Seattle voluntarily pulled their teams from the playoffs of the Western States Junior Hockey League (WSJHL), which is also grooming players for post season college hockey.

Four teams have publicly started the dispersal of players home. Doing so widens the speculation that the season is over, but it’s also being done as players can spend a great deal of time with a billet family. With all that has been going on, home life is often a better deal for many of these players.

The CHL and WHL released statements recently.

The Canadian Hockey League has been in regular communication with the Kelowna Host Organizing Committee for the 2020 Memorial Cup and they fully support the league’s decision to suspend play this season until further notice.  The health and safety of all committee members, the players, fans, volunteers, and the community, is of vital importance. Together, in partnership with the Host Organizing Committee, the CHL will continue to monitor information and developments provided by local, provincial and federal health agencies.  At this time it remains our hope that the event will continue as scheduled; however, more information will be shared as details around the balance of the 2019-20 season are determined as we work through these unprecedented circumstances.

Calgary, Alta. – Western Hockey League Commissioner Ron Robison announced today that the 2019-20 WHL season will be paused until further notice.

Following consultation with medical professionals and meetings with the CHL Board of Directors, it was determined that all hockey activity in the WHL will be paused until further notice.

“Following a conference call with the WHL Board of Governors, the Western Hockey League is announcing today that it will pause the 2019-20 WHL season, effective immediately,” commented WHL Commissioner Ron Robison. “The WHL takes the safety of our players, officials, staff, fans, and everyone associated with the WHL very seriously. We will continue to monitor ongoing public health developments regarding COVID-19. Our goal is to return to play when it is safe and reasonable to do so.

“We thank WHL fans and partners for your patience and understanding as we navigate this unprecedented time.”

LeBrun has been saying the earliest for resumption of play is at least mid-May and that is if the stars align, the NHL draft is scheduled for late-June, which leaves little room for postseason to take place.

The latest word comes from Matt Cockell with two players now being tested for Coronavirus as members of the Winnipeg Ice hockey club. Though the players were “symptomatic,” they self-quarantined and made decisions on whether they go home or require further treatment.

It is expected that announcements will be made over the coming days, and until something is concrete, the press releases will not offer much of a glimpse into the directions. 

With so many changes happening in such a short time, the full answers may not be known for ages.

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Stuart Kemp

Stuart Kemp is the President of the Portland Winterhawks Booster Club since 2008 and has been following hockey from his native Canada since he can remember, though he can't skate, but played road hockey for several years. Loving hockey and professional wrestling, he has traveled to most of the WHL cities and with wrestling, has seen four provinces and five states. It is true that every Canadian city with more than 500 residents has a hockey rink, well at least it looks that way. Stuart has had his hand in every facet of independent Professional wrestling as he debuted as an announcer in 1986 which started his career.

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