To say that a lot has happened over the last week in the hockey world would be a bit of an understatement. The insanity that was Friday’s Draft Lottery alone could fill headlines for the next month, which was likely what the NHL hoped for as they prepare to enter Phase 3 on July 10.
All of the talk surrounding the Draft Lottery, whether you loved or hated it, is fun. It’s a nice distraction to break up what has been a rough year for many.
While I would like to just discuss the fun stuff, of course, there are also times where you need to talk about some of the bigger things that are going on in the hockey world.
CHL Issues Statement Over Abuse Allegations
About two weeks ago, the Canadian Hockey League (CHL), which includes the Western Hockey League (WHL), Ontario Hockey League (OHL), and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), received a class-action lawsuit from former players alleging abuse while they were members of the league.
In response to the lawsuit, the CHL released a statement on June 26 discussing what actions they would be taking. While the statement is what you would expect after such serious allegations were made, the biggest news was the appointment of an Independent Review Panel to review their current policies.
Yesterday, the CHL Board of Directors unanimously agreed to the appointment of an Independent Review Panel to thoroughly review the current policies and practices in our leagues that relate to hazing, abuse, harassment and bullying and the allegation that players do not feel comfortable reporting behaviours that contravene these policies. A chair of this panel will be announced in the coming weeks and our goal is to have the review process completed in time for the start of the 2020-21 season.
Depending on what this review panel finds, this story could go any number of ways in the future. For now, this is something that all hockey fans should be keeping an eye on, as the safety and well being of developing players should always be the top-priority of not only the CHL, but the NHL as well.
Prospect of the Day: Yaroslav Askarov
In a bit of a tonal shift, let’s next look at the projected top goalie at the 2020 Draft, Yaroslav Askarov. Immediately, you can see that something is different about the perception of Askarov around the league, as many see him a legitimate threat to be selected in the top-ten, a rarity for goaltenders in the modern NHL.
The reason why is due to Askarov’s incredible body of work. As said by THW’s own Josh Bell:
Askarov has been on the radar for years, regularly playing above his age. He’s just 17 years old still, but has already played a game in the KHL, he represented Russia at the 2020 World Junior Championship (granted, it wasn’t his best showing), and last season he played in the World Under-18 Hockey Championship at 16, practically single-handedly defeating one of the best American U18 teams ever assembled.
Askarov has the build and toolkit of an NHL starter, and he looks to be one of the most surefire goaltending prospects since Andrei Vasilevskiy back in 2012. Depending on how things go with his development, his selection could be one of those moments that helps to shape the future of a franchise.
Just remember that the development of goaltenders is always an inexact science. If everything goes right, however, Askarov could be your starter for the next decade-plus.
AHL Planning for the Future
Finally, the AHL is discussing how they will approach the 2020-21 season amongst the COVID-19 pandemic. In this article, Tera Black, the COO of the Charlotte Checkers and one of six executives who are on the board for starting the next AHL season, talks about some of the challenges for the future of the league.
The AHL’s biggest hurdle — outside of the safety of players, employees and crowds — is finding a way to hold games with fans in the stands. Unlike the NHL with its large television deals, the AHL’s teams rely on ticket sales and in-game purchases to be sustainable.
“All the multipliers are based on the people in the seats,” Black said.From (‘Black, Checkers attempt to navigate AHL’s return’, North State Journal – 6/27/20)
As Black says, the AHL is a league dependent on ticket sales to keep the lights on. If fans are unable to attend games in 2020-21, this could severely hamper their ability to continue operations as normal. In a worst-case scenario, some franchises may even have to temporarily close if the financials don’t work out.
Given how important it is to have a pool of prospects to pull from in times of need, you would imagine that parent clubs may have to chip in to keep things functioning as close to normal as possible. Hopefully, we will learn more as the NHL’s plan for the 2020-21 season is revealed later this year.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.