With the NHL’s new collective bargaining agreement set to expire in 2021, the NHLPA has a chance to make some changes that could effect the playoffs in 2021. During one of the last negotiating sessions, the NHLPA proposed changing the playoff format, and two of the ideas put forward are worth looking into.
The NHL’s next season will be the first one since the H1N1 influenza pandemic of 2009. With the current research, scientists believe that the H1N1 virus could very well mutate into something that could potentially kill more than half of the world’s population.
An announced crowd of 18,110 fans saw the Tampa Bay Lightning win the Stanley Cup Wednesday night. That’s 18,110 more fans than at the home opener on Jan. 13 against the Chicago Blackhawks at Amalie Arena and 18,110 more fans than at last season’s Stanley Cup victory on the 26th. September 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta.
The end of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs in Tampa, Florida was symbolic in its banality. It wasn’t a complete romance. Several masks were worn during the championship ceremony. Media, friends and family were not present on the ice. The post-game press conferences went back to Zoom, who thankfully rejoined Nikita Kucherov at the level he was after Game 5.
Comparing the season finale to the beginning of the season, there is unabashed optimism that we can put the pandemic COVID-19 season behind us. Vaccines are distributed while bandwidth restrictions are relaxed – at least in the US. While variations of the Greek alphabet are spreading around the world, we are not yet rid of this pandemic. But it doesn’t look like January.
But just because we’ve had a pandemic season doesn’t mean we should ignore the lessons or, in some cases, the adjustments that have been made in the NHL during difficult times.
Here’s a look at what may be left of the 2021 pandemic season.
A seven-part focus series on what happens behind the scenes on and off the ice and in the locker room where you get a pass during the Stanley Cup hunt. Watch ESPN+
Of course, this also has to do with the league’s reliance on rivalries, as battles between old rivals and turf wars are a natural consequence of the divisional playoff format. But it also eliminates the additional paths to the postseason that the conference series or wild card format provide. More playoff races, more fans, more excitement.
Of course, there are other ways to reach the playoffs than the current model – and expanding the playoffs, as you know, is one of the items on my agenda – but basically, the NHL has done everything right: The more teams in the playoff race, the better.
Stay: Home program
The easiest choice of what to remember about pandemic season. Having teams play multiple home games against the same opponent encourages important issues – like skating between division rivals or feuds between teams – while reducing travel, saving money and making the regular season less hectic for players.
It’s a format that Blackhawks star Jonathan Toews has championed for years and has proven to be effective. A recent NHLPA poll shows that 66% of players favor keeping the home schedule. That’s how it should be.
Post-game analysis and broadcast every night of the season by Barry Melrose and Linda Cohn. Watch ESPN+
Go to : Paperless tickets
Digital tickets will continue to exist. There’s no turning back. We all understand this and have learned to deal with it. I wish there were more alternatives to paper tickets – or at least a paper version of the match ticket.
Call it nostalgia or an old man shaking his fist at the clouds, but it was really nice to have a collection of printed tickets or even just to see which player was on your ticket that night. Again: I agree that it’s a paperless world if you agree that I still have my 1995 Stanley Cup ticket stub for Game 4 against the New Jersey Devils. Somewhere.
Arenas have developed ways to buy concessions for fans during non-contact games. One of the innovations is the take-and-go concept, especially when it comes to beer. You choose what you want, show your ID card, go to the payment point and away you go.
They’ve been around forever in airports, and they’re finally coming to hockey stadiums so you don’t have to stand in line for the restroom and drinks during intermission (which eventually leads back to the line for the restroom).
Go to : Masked coaches
The NHL should punish Ducharme for this. Every time the camera is on him, he takes off his mask.
– Rob Williams (@RobTheHockeyGuy) March 21, 2021
COVID-19 protocols are expected to be less stringent next season, as they have already been relaxed for players and team personnel vaccinated during the season.
But when it comes to the coaches on the bench – look, they either wear a mask or they don’t. Masks worn like diapers, coaches who negate the usefulness of a mask by putting it on to yell at players on the bench ….. ugh.
Hopefully that won’t be a problem next season either. Because in an effort to create a good image, NHL coaches in disguise often do the opposite.
Stay: Growing concerns about mental health for all
And finally, my greatest hope for what we have learned after this pandemic season: Players deserve our support and understanding when it comes to their mental health.
Their difficulties were well documented during the pandemic, including in this excellent article by my colleague Emily Kaplan. I was encouraged by the support given to players like Robin Lehner and the respect and detachment with which Toews was treated as he struggled with his health problems.
I am always encouraged when I see players who are willing to talk about their mental health – in a sport where these common issues are all too often seen as a sign of weakness. That stigma needs to be broken, and I think there has been some progress in that area over the past year.
We hope to make further progress in this direction. Because at least something positive has to come out of this exhausting, devastating, emotionally draining year.
Jersey business of the week
From the Stanley Cup Final:
What a fan ⚪️ pic.twitter.com/2BrMSMDwOu
– Tony Marinaro (@TonyMarinaro) July 5, 2021
I don’t know if anyone has ever prayed to the hockey gods for an offense. Don’t let his total inability to affect the outcome of the series keep you from spending a few hundred dollars the next time your team is in danger of being eliminated. Think about how people tried to climb Mount Everest before the summit was reached. Equal power.
Three things about NHL draft prospects
1. Luke Hughes loves his quiet courtship with the New Jersey Devils, who selected him fourth and paired him with his brother Jack. I mean, my brother obviously wants me there. It would be really cool to play with him, he said. I know Jack loves New Jersey. A very cool ice rink. A very cool fan base. Then he ate Taylor’s ham, egg and cheese, played Boardwalk Skee-Ball and started humming Springsteen songs.
2. This week my favorite NHL prospect to talk to was Mason McTavish of Peterborough (OHL). The project analyst noted that violence and aggression are just two of the many common characteristics of a typical McTavish team. He took it upon himself when he was compared to Ryan Getzlaf. He has also been compared to Ryan O’Reilly. It’s not that bad.
3. I’m not saying Michigan’s Matthew Benyers looks mature for his age, but he’s only two years away from being eligible for the NHL without restrictions.
Matthew Benyers looks 18 as an actor on The CW series pic.twitter.com/8d27sOjFCo
– Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) July 6, 2021
Winners and losers of the week
Winner: Nikita Kucherov
Montreal fans acted like they won the Stanley Cup in the last game. Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me? It was his last.
An incredible press conference by Nikita Kucherov. #ItsOn | #StanleyCup pic.twitter.com/rmaNrCQVHB
– Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) July 8, 2021
We’ve talked about it a few times, but Kucherov returned the favor with a drunken tirade for Zoom’s year of press conferences. He came in the official uniform of a Florida man: shirt sleeves, hat back, wearing a Bud Light. Within minutes he was playing a comedy of gold: He mocked a reporter’s microphone, fiercely defended Andrei Vasilevskiy as the league’s best goalie and mocked Marc-Andre Fleury and Connor Hellebuyck for being voted winners of the Vezina Trophy. Nikita Kucherov’s post-Stanley Cup press conference is like someone giving Alex Ovechkin red kryptonite.
Loser: Montreal fans
OK, first they have to see 18,000 people at the Amalie Arena in Tampa during the Stanley Cup Final, while their county limits access to the Bell Centre to a few thousand people. Then they have to watch their team get destroyed in five games by the Lightning. Then they let Kucherov walk all over them at a press conference: Montreal fans, come on. They acted like they won the Stanley Cup in the last game. Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me? Their finale was in last week’s episode.
Winner: Big day for newcomers
How lucky for hockey when David Savard got the assist on Ross Colton’s winning goal in Game 5, the only goal scored in that game. They were the only two Lightning players in the game without Stanley Cup rings.
Loser: Brendan Gallagher’s worst day
It was revealed via Gallagher on TikTok that the dream of the Stanley Cup wasn’t the only thing that was taken away from him this week. It’s just awful. I feel sorry for the man.
Winner: Ryan McDonagh.
Is there any other player whose rating went up more than the Lightning defender’s in the final? He had three assists in the series, including one on Game 5’s only goal. It was more like 7. He ended up getting three votes for third place in the Conn Smythe category, ahead of Braden Point and Cary Price!
Loser: Conspiracy Theories
Wasilewski is 5 pounds heavier than Price, but looks like she’s pregnant with quintuplets pic.twitter.com/nDyyZ1c3sZ
– Eric Macramalla (@EricMacramalla) July 8, 2021
Now that we’ve gone through all the Tampa Bay Lightning pranks: Cheaters are in the spotlight, I see we’ve moved on to Andrei Vasilevskiy: the man with the forbidden outfit, judging by some of the photos after Game 5. As former NHL goalie Eddie Lack said in his denial, it’s just a preference for how you wear it. Price pulls his chest in but Vazi doesn’t. For your information: They are both legal, so stop complaining.
Thanks to Hurricane Elsa for holding out on this fifth day of play, despite threatening weather warnings through Wednesday in Tampa. As an aside: It was interesting to see how some Canadians who had come to Florida for the game reacted to the impending tropical storm turning into a hurricane; I mean they were completely panicked. The basic rule applies here too: If the residents haven’t boarded up the windows, they should be fine.
Loser: Red wings and sabres
Although the Seattle Cracks’ expanded team does not yet have a roster, its chances of winning a Stanley Cup are greater than Detroit and Buffalo. And it’s not just the effect of the Golden Knights.
If you missed this message from your friends at ESPN….
Emily Kaplan covered the tragic death of Matisse Kivlinieks at length, including this report on the team’s reaction to his loss.
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