Hockey Storylines to Watch out for in 2020

From the continued fallout of hockey’s so-called social reckoning, Don Cherry’s potential replacement, the shaping of Seattle’s NHL franchise and the uncertain future of the women’s game, The Canadian Press takes a look at some hockey storylines to watch out for in 2020.

What’s Next in Hockey’s #METOO Movement?

The resignation of Calgary Flames head coach Bill Peters over allegations of past racism and physical abuse started the process of shining a light on some of the game’s unseemly corners in the last six weeks of 2019. Chicago Blackhawks assistant Marc Crawford was subsequently suspended by the team, but will keep his job, for allegations of physical abuse by some former players — something he has sought counselling for since 2010.

Marc Crawford
Coach Marc Crawford.

Dallas Stars head coach Jim Montgomery, meanwhile, was fired for unspecified unprofessional conduct. The NHL unveiled a code of conduct earlier this month, but hockey’s biggest question heading into 2020 is this: Where does the story go from here?

Who or What Fills Don Cherry’s Shoes?

One of the game’s most polarizing figures, famed “Hockey Night in Canada” commentator Don Cherry, was fired by Rogers Sportsnet in November. Cherry, 85, was fired on Nov. 11 for comments two days earlier that many felt were critical of immigrants for not wearing Remembrance Day poppies. Cherry used the phrase, ‘You people,’ during the “Coach’s Corner” segment but later denied that he was singling out minorities. “You people that come here, whatever it is, you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple bucks for a poppy or something like that,” Cherry said. “These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price.”

Don Cherry
Hockey commentator Don Cherry (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese)

So after 38 years, where does the program go from here? Sportsnet has yet to name a replacement or map out a long-term plan for its prime first intermission slot on Saturday nights, but if someone takes on the job, Cherry’s shoes will be enormous to fill.

Seattle Taking Shape

The NHL’s 32nd franchise continues to grind toward its inaugural season in 2021-22. Seattle has hired a general manager in Hall of Fame forward Ron Francis, continues to build its front office and scouting staffs, and should have a name, colour scheme and head coach by this time next year. Francis is already preparing for the expansion draft in June 2021, but fairly or unfairly, Seattle will always be compared to the Vegas Golden Knights, who made the Stanley Cup final in their first season back in 2017-18.

The Future of Women’s Professional Hockey

Women’s professional hockey had a great start to 2019, but its future as the calendar flips to 2020 remains very much up in the air. U.S. star Kendall Coyne Schofield wowed fans at January’s NHL all-star game with an impressive showing in the fastest skater competition against her male counterparts. But the Canadian Women’s Hockey League — one of two pro leagues in North America — ceased operations in May after 12 years. 

U.S. Women's National Team's Kendall Coyne Schofield
U.S. Women’s National Team’s Kendall Coyne Schofield (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Jeff Chiu)

The Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association rose from the CWHL’s ashes, stating its roughly 200 players wouldn’t play anywhere, including the U.S.-based NWHL, until a league they deem financially viable and sustainable is established. From the outside, it makes sense for the women’s game to eventually fall under the NHL banner, but it remains to be seen if that will ever actually happen.

Canada’s Stanley Cup Drought

At this time last year, the Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets all sat near the top of the NHL standings, their fans dreaming of an end to Stanley Cup drought for Canadian teams that dates back to the Montreal Canadiens’ victory in 1993. But all three clubs were bounced in the first round of the playoffs, and no team residing north of the border looks to be among the league’s elite heading into 2020. Things, however, can change quickly. Calgary, Toronto and Winnipeg were the only Canadian franchises to make the playoffs last year, but Edmonton, Montreal and Vancouver could bring that number to as high as six this spring.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Jan. 1, 2020.


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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press