With the Tampa Bay Lightning crowned 2020 Stanley Cup Champions, we continue to take a look back at some of the season’s storylines, as well as what it to come leading up to the 2020-21 season.
Following in the path of the NBA, the NHL put its season on pause on March 12th as Covid-19 gained a foothold in the United States and Canada. It was revealed not long after that several unnamed members of the Colorado Avalanche and the Ottawa Senators had tested positive. With cases and deaths surging, especially in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, it was uncertain if, let alone when, the season would resume.
Players Take a Stand for Social Justice and Equality
Akim Aliu cracked open the door to hockey coming to terms with racism in the sport. It would be events away from the ice that would burst it wide open. The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota led many Black players to speak out on racism and injustice, and many White players looking to be better allies did as well. Some players joined protests in cities they were hockey saying in during the pandemic. Several current and former players of color joined together to form the Hockey Diversity Alliance, a group independent of the NHL that would work in conjunction with the league to work toward inclusivity and diversity. Another police shooting of James Blake, an African-American man, in Kenosha, Wisconsin in August brought the playoffs to a halt for two days as a form of protesting the shooting.
Release The Kraken
Seattle was awarded the 32nd NHL franchise in December 2018. It would be 18 months before the club to finally reveal its name, colors, logo, and sweaters. On July 23rd, at the construction site for the Climate Pledge Arena (formally known as the Key Bank Arena), the Kraken came to life, with a slick logo in the shape of an S with a tentacle in the negative space and a menacing red eye. The logo and the navy, shades of aqua and red as its color scheme, were meant to evoke the Emerald City’s ties to the ocean. A secondary anchor logo that will appear on the shoulders of their sweaters subtly pays homage to the city’s iconic Space Needle. The Kraken are on schedule to debut in the 2012-22 season.
The Return To Play/Labor Peace
With both the NHL owners and the NHLPA fully aware of what the fallout of a lockout or a strike that would cost some or all of a season would be in the difficult economic times caused by the pandemic, both sides came to an agreement that will ensure labor peace through the 2024-25 season. This went hand-in-hand with the agreement on the Return to Play plan, the four-phase approach to get players back into training camps, and into two secure bubbles to complete the season. Phase 2, where players could informally train at their team facilities, got off to a bumpy start. Two teams had to temporarily close facilities due to positive COVID tests for some players and staff, calling into question whether the plan could be seen through to completion. Not one positive test was reported during the formal training camps of Phase 3, nor in the two bubbles during Phase 4.
The Draft Lottery, Parts I and II
The restructuring of the postseason led to a change in how the NHL decided to hold this year’s draft lottery. The seven teams not taking part in the postseason were in. Eight additional placeholders spots were added, representing the still to be determined losing teams of the Qualifying Round. If one of the seven non-qualifiers won the lottery, the process would be complete. If one of the placeholder balls won the lottery, a second step would be triggered, in which the teams that lost in the Qualifying Round would each have a 12.5% chance at selecting first overall. With 2020 being 2020, neither the Ottawa Senators having a 25% chance of winning with their two lottery spots nor the 18.5% chance that the Detroit Red Wings’ dead-last finish gave them were enough to prevent placeholder team E from securing the first overall pick for a losing Qualifier team and trigger part II of the lottery.
Naturally, this led to much consternation that teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Edmonton Oilers, already with high-end talent, would have a chance to potentially add Alexis Lafreniere to their stable of players. The New York Rangers hit lottery luck, giving the Blueshirts their first overall draft pick for the first time since 1965.
The Offseason Scramble
Twenty-nine teams have been able to conduct business since their eliminations or non-invitations to the postseason. Some trades have occurred, some contracts have been assigned. The first buyout window opened on
The NHL will allow its teams to open its facilities to players for off-season training beginning October 15th, so long as a team has received a request for access from at least five players and that local health protocols allow for such a gathering. It’s still unknown when the League, still determined to play a full 82-game schedule, will actually be able to start its season, regardless of whether or not fans will be allowed in its 31 arenas. As it has since mid-March, the virus will dictate that.