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A Normal Season Would Be Welcomed

from Matt Larkin of The Hockey News,

Could we call the experience “normal”? Probably not. Probably never again. Social distancing was still in effect. Interviewers and interviewees were masked. But the NHL’s annual Player Media Tour, which made a stop at Toronto’s Hotel X Monday, offered a taste of the pre-COVID-19 hockey life. The event kicked off what will be, for the first time since 2018-19, a traditional NHL calendar. Development camps will bleed into training camps, followed by a pre-season and regular-season games in October. We’ll get an 82-game schedule; an NHL All-Star Game in Vegas this coming winter; even a break for an Olympic tournament featuring NHLers for the first time since 2014; and the NHL will award the Stanley Cup in June for the first time since 2019.

For the most part, the players, the majority of which are double vaccinated, seem ready and willing to accept the return of something resembling “normal.” Perhaps no team is more excited for that prospect than the Vancouver Canucks, who endured a devastating COVID-19 outbreak in 2020-21 that affected almost every team member and kept them out of game action between March 24 and April 18. Theoretically, nothing they experience this coming season will be as trying as last season. “We had our six-day break right before (the outbreak), too, so it wasn’t just the quarantine,” said Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko. “We really hadn’t been on the ice in three weeks. They gave us two days to get our wind, and guys were feeling it. It was tough to get through the schedule, and we bonded over it. Guys matured through that experience. It’s tough to do. “

Little about the past two seasons has felt traditional thanks to the pandemic. The 2019-20 season brought a four-month shutdown followed by a 24-team bubble playoff tournament. The 2020-21 season spanned just 56 regular-season games, commenced in January and forced teams to play only within their realigned divisions. If the glass was half full: the condensed schedule and divisional play brought something novel, at least at first. Montreal Canadiens center Nick Suzuki, for instance, enjoyed the MLB-style series in which teams would spend several days in each city and play opponents multiple times in a row. “I think the baseball style was pretty cool,” he said. “Getting to spend a week in Vancouver, settling down in your hotel room, and you don’t really have to fly that much. So if that was brought back, I don’t think guys would hate it.”

continued

Filed in: NHL Teams, NHL Talk, | KK Hockey | Permalink
 

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

Email Paul anytime at pk@kuklaskorner.com