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Lightning Round: How are other leagues dealing with COVID-19?

Hopefully the NHL will learn from those mistakes

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Columbus Blue Jackets v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game Two Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

It’s already the end of October, but we’re still in the middle of offseason. Sounds weird, but the coronavirus has changed our lives completely and hockey is not an exception. In a normal situation we would have watched the standings starting to take shape and began predicting the early favorites or losers of the season. But it’s almost November and we’re still waiting for our three restricted free agents to sign new contracts with the team.

The league’s representatives have several times mentioned that the NHL is targeting January 1 as the potential start of the next regular season. Canada’s travel restrictions are the biggest concern so far, and the league has already started discussing changing the divisional structure temporarily for the next season and creating a Canadian division.

Another possibility which is being discussed is placing NHL teams in modified hubs. Something we already seen during the playoffs, however it will be obviously harder to achieve with all of the teams and number of games. The NHL’s general managers had a first meeting regarding the potential start of the season, but we’re still pretty far from it. The general managers agreed to form a special Return to Play committee which will include 10 NHL players.

The AHL has already pushed the start of their season to at least December 4, 2020 and presumably will follow the NHL’s decision on possible return to play. The OHL and WHL delayed the start of their season until December/January, but there’s still a possibility that it could changed. The QMJHL is the only CHL league which already started playing: the league went with a three-division format, where teams are playing with their divisional opponents. No spectators are also allowed to the rinks. The ECHL is planning to return on December 11, 2020 with a split-season format, where half of the team will begin their season later on January 15, 2021.

Uncertainty about the next season has also forced some prospects or players from minor leagues to go to Europe, where the hockey is already playing, although with limited players. Some big names, such as Alexander Barkov, are also considering playing in Europe until the training camps start in the NHL. Joe Thornton has signed a deal with HC Davos in Switzerland and already started scoring for them.

The European leagues are already facing a lot of issues regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the KHL has registered multiple outbreaks within their teams: most recently HC Jokerit has been placed in quarantine for the second time since the start of the season. Some KHL teams have been forced to play their junior rosters: in September the SKA St. Petersburg replaced their infected players with players from their junior teams and SKA’s vice president, Roman Rotenberg had to stepped behind the bench as head coach, while the team’s current head coach Valeri Bragin also tested positive.

The Czech Extraliga were forced to pause their season after the Czech government have declared the state of emergency, following the rapid rise of COVID-19 cases.

Around the League

An Edmonton sports legend, Joey Moss, has passed away at the age of 57.

Another hard thing to read: the Arizona Coyotes fourth round selection in latest NHL Draft was convicted for bullying a Black classmate with disabilities.

The Ottawa Senators have signed a forward Chris Tierney to a two-year deal.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have made some changes in their organization