Land Ho! I see hockey on the horizon

Marc Elliott

GLEN AVON – The troubles plaguing our world and country certainly haven’t subsided a bit, even if the mainstream media has chosen to give the ongoing protests less coverage in a pointed attempt to delegitimize them, but this week I am choosing to return to covering a more positive subject; the National Hockey League.

Last Monday the 8th, teams could officially reopen their practice facilities for small group workouts provided they followed the league mandates regarding such. There is now some workout and skating activity occurring at all team facilities as players continue to filter in from wherever they chose to engage in their quarantine protocol.

However, there is still an estimated 20% of the league’s rostered players outside of North America still awaiting a return to their team’s home cities. And with a two-week quarantine still in place in Canada for foreigners entering the country, any players returning there will have to get back soon in order to be eligible to participate.

Training camps will commence on July 10, so players are currently ramping up their training activities in order to be ready.

For the seven clubs that will not be a part of the Stanley Cup tournament, they remain idle and in an official “offseason” status. It is my understanding that those seven are the first group of teams entered into the NHL draft lottery, and that the eight clubs that do not win in the qualifying round will be joining them for the lottery draw prior to the league’s entry draft.

The league and the NHLPA are still in the process of determining a startup date for the tournament and the draft.

Obviously I’m biased, but in my personal observance of the various professional leagues and their path’s to a resumption of play, I believe the NHL has taken the most intelligent and non-contentious route to doing so.

I’m sure there were some disagreements within their talks, but just based on what I’ve seen thus far within the ranks of MLB and the NBA regarding a return to play, the NHL’s progress has been the smoothest.

I believe this happened because they first agreed upon some common goals, and then went about finding the best way to accomplish those goals, with everyone’s safety being at the forefront of how they were going to do everything.

The talks in baseball for instance between their executive branch and PA have featured a fair amount of disagreement.

Overall I believe they desire to kick off their 2020 season but cannot agree on the number of games to be played within that season and what the players compensation will be. I also believe it will be challenging to come to an agreement for them so long as compensation remains at the top of the list. Both sides will have to make sacrifices and they seem to be a ways apart on that issue at this point in time.

In fact, I have just read minutes ago that the MLBPA has walked away from the negotiations and stated that MLB should just come up with an order for them as to when the season would begin and any other pertinent information necessary to do so. It is believed that would do nothing other than initiate a lawsuit from the PA over compensation among other issues. It could be observed that this has been brewing since the 2016 CBA was settled which has basically led to little upward movement in player salaries for the last five years.

Since my summertime sports love is baseball, I would like to see them get their season started so I could watch a few games before the Stanley Cup tourney begins, but that looks like a distant possibility at this time.

It wasn’t hard to see this shaping up though as most negotiations regarding a startup of play have had an aggressive edge to them. So be it. The league and the PA will not be doing themselves any favors. They are only making it easy for casual fans to say au revoir.

In other NHL news, word has gotten out that Las Vegas is a frontrunner to be one of the leagues two “hub” cities for the SC tourney.

This would indicate to me that an Eastern city would likely be up to be named as the other hub, thus eliminating the Wild and St. Paul as the other site.

If the Canadian quarantine protocol is still in place as the tourney nears I believe that would eliminate any Canadian cities as hub sites. But we’ll see on that; the league seemed to be pretty keen on Toronto as a hub early on in the discussions and I would look for some more decisions to be made regarding that in as soon as the next 7-10 days, with league announcements to follow.

For the hometown Wild there isn’t a lot of recent news coming from St. Paul. There has been no info release regarding a permanent coaching replacement for Bruce Boudreau. I see that as being a clue that interim Coach Dean Evason has a decent opportunity to land the job, and that perhaps the team’s performance in the Cup tourney could be his final audition.

If that is the case, what if Deano “failed”? Would GM Bill Guerin start looking at other candidates?

If Billy G is worth his salt as a NHL GM he already has a short list in his pocket at all times.

And how much weight would the tourney performance carry at this point? Evason had the team playing some pretty decent hockey when the season was suspended, but that process actually began while Boudreau was still in the fold.

Last weekend in the Metro I ran into a young acquaintance that had played at Blaine, in the juniors and in college. Some months later he is still fuming that Bruce was let go.

Well, I certainly wasn’t happy when it happened either but I have decided to reconcile it as part of the change at GM and move on.

Bruce is as good a man as you will find in the game and a hockey “lifer” at that.

My nephew Paul Jr. from Phoenix was also in town, and after spending several weeks quarantining as an “at risk” person, it was good to get out.

Between the three of us we had a solid four-hour hockey talk session, followed up with a pretty fantastic barbecue chicken dinner. The afternoon couldn’t have possibly been better.

Paul Jr. thinks his Coyotes could win their qualifying round against Nashville and I believe that, too. If the Yotes netminding is at its peak, they could prevail over the Saros-Rinne tandem. As a former goalie, the young chap from Blaine agreed, noting the struggles of Pekka Rinne this season.

We all believed the Wild could beat the Canucks as well. Experience can count for a lot in a playoff series, and the Wild have more of that than Vancouver. It’ll be interesting no matter what … PEACE