If you are a long-time reader here you will know that I am big on playing time for young players for development purposes. You will also know that I am ardent about keeping people safe during the pandemic. It is likely that these two ideas are at odds with each other and they are in my opinion. So where do we go from here?
Some NHL teams have sent their AHL players to Europe on a loan to allow them to keep playing. Because those leagues are running and it sounds like without incident, this is a solid move. It is not AHL players who should be the biggest worry though; it is junior players.
NCAA players have just started their seasons as has the USHL. The CHL is aiming for after Christmas, but many players have gone to the BCHL, AJHL, SJHL, and MJHL in Western Canada. The QMJHL is already playing and has had outbreaks. The game is not stopped completely.
The challenge of the CHL is the crossing of provinces. This is particularly difficult in the WHL which covers: Oregon, Washington state, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. That’s a lot of potentially closed borders to do with. Because of this, the WHL is probably going to be the hardest league to start back up again. Not as hard as the AHL or ECHL who have teams spanning across two whole countries. Leagues are going to have to get creative.
How will this impact players? Well, most are in the same boat so that is one. Two is that this is like an extended injury for them. Some were able to skate alone for a period of time before shutdowns started happening again. Some were able to play. But it is what it is and them being able to play at some level is key. Some are even joining Hockey Canada in prep for the World Under 20 Championships already in an extended camp. In short, they will survive as long as they don’t get sick.