With the NHL Trade Deadline passed and the season proceeding as planned (for the most part), not to mention the college season coming to an end with European seasons soon to follow, it may seem as though the hockey schedule has reached a quiet period. However, there are still some major events on the horizon and planning never stops, especially with numerous challenges still being faced.
The next big hockey event, even before the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs really hit their stride, is the 2021 IIHF World Championship – and that is part of the problem. While the World Championships typically take place during the NHL’s postseason, the continued delays of the league’s schedule is going to create an even larger conundrum this year.
The tournament, scheduled to take place in Latvia from May 21 to June 6, is proceeding as planned. However, the NHL regular season is currently on pace to end on May 16, if not later, due to the delays created by the recent COVID-19 outbreak within the Vancouver Canucks locker room. This means that when the World Championship begins, the postseason will have just begun and national teams will be without options from 16 NHL teams.
There are still ongoing concerns related to the coronavirus as well, reports TSN’s Darren Dreger. He notes that there are talks that the World Championship could take place in a bubble format. This could mean that new entrants are not permitted or, at the very least, would need to quarantine. Realistically, this means that players from NHL playoff teams are unlikely to play in the tournament at all and those on teams whose regulars seasons end late, they too might not be available from the get-go, if at all.
The Worlds could have a very different look this year, but after the 2020 event was canceled, the IIHF seems determined to make it work one way or another.
- The 2022 Winter Olympic Games are less than a year away and with the re-scheduled 2020 Summer Games proceeding this summer, there is little doubt that the Winter Games will happen. The NHL has not officially announced that they are returning to the Olympics, but national committees have been operating as if they will. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun notes that Hockey Canada specifically has already begun trimming their list of roster candidates for the upcoming tournament. He states that the Canadian brain trust began with a long list of possibilities but that his has been reduced by about 20% already by Doug Armstrong and his staff and the hope it to get down to a “medium list” by the end of the season. This will allow the team to hold an Olympic camp this summer to further evaluate their candidates and form a short list before next season. At that time, LeBrun notes that the yet-to-be-named coaching staff will be part of the final roster cuts. However, for this plan to proceed as Hockey Canada hopes, the NHL and NHLPA need to first confirm the return to the Olympics and then officially permit Olympic camps to be held this summer. There are still steps that need to be taken before Olympic fever can truly start to heat up ahead of next year’s games.
- With the OHL still out of action and the WHL and QMJHL having shortened seasons, there are still efforts being made to help out NHL teams and CHL prospects alike. Dreger notes that the two leagues are working together to hold a “Top Prospects Event”, likely to be a small tournament, in early July before the 2021 NHL Draft. With this year’s draft staying put as scheduled, despite some discussion of a delay, both leagues want to do their best to make up for missed time for Canada’s top junior prospects with a chance for NHL teams to evaluate talent ahead of the draft. Planning for the event is still in its early stages, but Dreger reports that the league would like to replicate the Edmonton playoff bubble from last year for the pre-draft tournament, but will first need permission from the Albertan government. There is still clearly work to be done on these plans with not much time left, but all draft stakeholders stand to gain from the event taking place and the push will continue for as long as possible.