It’s reaching the point in the bizarre, chaotic 2020 NHL offseason where nothing makes sense anymore, everything is upside-down, and simultaneously everything and nothing is happening all at once.
The NHL has yet to fully formulate a plan to re-start the league for the
2020-21 season; they’re still operating on the assumption that the season will begin on January 1st, but have yet to firmly set that as the start date and still haven’t figured out how many games will be played.
There have been some hold-ups (we’ve written a bit about that, coming out later today!) with the league trying to negotiate player agreements and revenue streams, which is just one layer in a massive puzzle that also includes safety regulations due to the ongoing covid-10 pandemic, state-by-state mandates and case levels, and the 2021 (formerly 2020) Summer Olympics that are set to start in July.
Some leagues, though, are dealing with yet another wrinkle in their plans — teams outright opting out the upcoming season in its entirety.
The ECHL announced on November 18th that the six teams in the North Division have uniformly opted to voluntarily suspend operations for the 2021 season, bringing the total number of teams sitting out in the third-tier North American league to eight:
The 6 teams from the #ECHL North Division have elected to suspend play for the 2020-21 Season under the League’s COVID-19 policy.
— ECHL (@ECHL) November 18, 2020
“As we continue to navigate the continually changing regulations across North America, we recognize the difficult nature of this decision,” said ECHL Commissioner Ryan Crelin, per the official league release. “While some of our teams’ host cities have allowed upcoming plans to include fans inside arenas, we unfortunately do not see the same path for these highly-affected areas in the Northeast.”
The six teams that all chose to opt out together on Wednesday are the Newfoundland Growlers, Maine Mariners, Worcester Railers, Brampton Beast, Reading Royals, and Adirondack Thunder — leaving the Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, and Philadelphia Flyers without ECHL affiliates for some of their prospects. Those six teams joined the Norfolk Admirals — who are unaffiliated with an NHL team — and the Atlanta Gladiators, who serve as the Boston Bruins’ affiliate.
The ECHL initially planned to open their season on December 11th with 13 teams that would play 72 games, then the remaining teams would start their season on January 15th and play in a 62-game season.
So far, none of the 13 projected December-start teams — the Allen Americans (Minnesota Wild), Florida Everblades (Nashville Predators), Greenville Swamp Rabbits (Carolina Hurricanes), Indy Fuel (Chicago Blackhawks), Jacksonville Icemen (Winnipeg Jets), Kansas City Mavericks (Calgary Flames), Orlando Solar Bears (Tampa Bay Lightning), Rapid City Rush (Arizona Coyotes), South Carolina Stingrays (Washington Capitals), Tulsa Oilers (Anaheim Ducks), Utah Grizzlies (Colorado Avalanche), Wheeling Nailers (Pittsburgh Penguins) and Wichita Thunder (Edmonton Oilers) — have opted out of their seasons, meaning that the 72-game season for certain teams is still feasibly in play. But of the remaining 13 teams, eight are now sitting the season out, leaving only five teams left for the abbreviated January start date (Toledo Walleye, Fort Wayne Komets, Cincinnati Cyclones, Idaho Steelheads, and Kalamazoo Wings).
In some more optimistic news, though, the people working behind the scenes to improve youth hockey haven’t quit just because there are more restrictions in place this year. Props to women’s hockey legend Cammi Granato, who announced a new initiative to help give more girls access to hockey:
Olympic gold medalist @CammiGranato is launching a grant program to provide 21 girls increased opportunities to play hockey. ❤️
— USA Hockey (@usahockey) November 18, 2020
And finally, the funniest story of them all:
Braden Holtby is a Stanley Cup champion, Vezina winner, and all-around great guy.
But despite his talented record and winning personality, it seems that he’s as human as the rest of us when it comes to suffering from moving woes — in his case, all thanks to a pair of beloved pet tortoises:
Hey Twitter, does anyone have any sweet connections with Federal Fish and Wildlife that could push some export papers along in order to get two happy tortoises across the border? We miss our boys!
— Brandi Holtby (@bbholtby) November 18, 2020
Holtby’s wife, Brandi, took to Twitter on Wednesday to beg for some help with the family’s move to Vancouver for the upcoming season.
The problem? They had filed their import papers with the Canadian government ahead of the move, okaying the pair of tortoises to make their way to the great white north — but had forgotten to file export papers on the American side of the border.
The result? Holtby seems to be stuck in the US, waiting with his tortoises until customs will let them across and into Canada.
No, we didn’t know we needed an export permit (we did do the import permit for the Canadian side) so now Braden is stuck at the border with two tortoises
— Brandi Holtby (@bbholtby) November 18, 2020
UPDATE: Thank you to all of the kind souls out there who have made an effort to help! FWS is aware of our situation and they are working towards a solution to get Braden and the boys home!
— Brandi Holtby (@bbholtby) November 19, 2020
2020 in a nutshell, amirite?