An update on the good ol’ hockey game.
Recreation with restrictions
As we roll into the new year, there now emerges loads of hockey related news to catch up on, both past and fast-approaching. Whether it’s the World Juniors, the announcement of the WHL season, or the upcoming NHL season, there’s certainly no shortage of items to discuss. Of course, we also have to keep in mind the impact COVID-19 is still having on everything sports related. Just because it’s a new year, doesn’t mean that the board gets reset. With that being said, let’s dive into the first of the aforementioned topics, the World Juniors.
The World Juniors:
In what was a shocking gold medal game, especially considering Canada’s steamrolling wins on the way to the gold medal, the United States pulled out all the stops (and made all of them too) by beating Canada in the finals, 2-0. Interestingly enough, since the World Juniors tournament officially began in 1977, Canada has never been shut out in a gold medal game. Although not that hard to believe given Canada’s proficiency within the realm of ice hockey, I personally find it to be absolute madness that in over four decades of World Juniors, Canada has only now been shut out. Craziness, just craziness.
This aside, this gold medal win is the fifth overall from the United States. The silver medal would be Canada’s tenth as a country, and the bronze would go to Finland (which would be their seventh). It’s worth mentioning that Finland also had an impressive showing at the World Juniors, knocking off Russia, 4-1, to obtain the bronze.
As mentioned a bit earlier though, team Canada steamrolled their way through most of the tournament (see their 16-2 win against Germany as the prime example). However, before the tournament began, Canada lost their captain (Kirby Dach of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan) to a terrible wrist injury. Despite this loss, Canada still got as far as they did in the Tournament which is fairly impressive considering.
For those interested in continuing to follow the Saskatchewan stars journey into NHL, Dach will unfortunately miss the opening of his NHL career, but will be playing for the Chicago Blackhawks when he does return.
Moving away from the World Juniors, we now approach the WHL. Recent news regarding the new season was released via the organization, who stated that each team will play 24 games in total if health authorities approve. This, of course, being due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the possibility of a new WHL season may come as welcome news to some, it is also questionable given the health risks involved.
Next, let’s look at the upcoming NHL season. The season (at the time of writing) is set to get going on January 13 and features a total of 56 games. One of the most interesting things to look forward to for Canadians hockey fans, is the Canadian Division that will be established. According to the NHL website, this was done to comply with government issued COVID-based regulations.
“The NHL and NHLPA have had to adjust to government regulations at all levels, from restrictions at the Canada-United States border to local limits on gatherings, and the coronavirus situation in each of the markets for the 31 NHL teams. The agreement includes health and safety protocols.”
For those curious: all Canadian teams within the the NHL’s North Division can be found just below:
The Canadiens, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets.
Some, including Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice, are excited for what’s to come with the division. Maurice’s shared his thoughts with the official NHL website:
“I think it’s just going to be awesome,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said earlier this month. “It’s going to be way over the top because the Canadian media, all the websites, all the talk will be about the Canadian teams. I think it’s also great for the Canadian teams in that it’s going to be a little bit old-school, that it’s going to be just about us. There will be a vibe to that that’s awesome.“
Much like the WHL, the NHL’s return also marks possible health risks for teams and staff members. In fact, before this season even started, the Dallas Stars were subject to a large number of COVID-19 related cases.
According to the Dallas Morning News, the Stars were forced to cancel practice for COVID-19 on Friday after six players and two staff members tested positive for the virus. The team will now have the start of their season delayed to at least Jan. 19 as a result.
Considering the cases and drastic issues that could arise, it may be within the NHL’s best interest to either delay or cancel the season for the health and safety of it’s players and staff.
With that all being said, whether it be the World Juniors, the WHL, or the NHL, ice hockey is certainly making waves in the sports world. In order to keep making waves, the biggest thing for ice hockey to accomplish is maintaining the excellent quality of health and safety so that the sport can be performed in an environment that is free of infection.