The world of professional North American hockey was treated to some noteworthy events this past weekend: matches presented in front of spectators.
Indeed, the Premier AA Hockey League (ECHL) began somehow its 2020-2021 season last Friday, amputated by several formations having given up playing the campaign. This is how five meetings took place during the first day of activities and as many on Saturday. The last time professional hockey was presented to an audience on this continent was on March 11, when the Ottawa Senators lost 3-2 to the Kings in Los Angeles. The next day, the National Hockey League (NHL) interrupted its regular schedule.
Despite the upheavals of the past few months, ECHL Commissioner Ryan Crelin is happy with the turn of events over the weekend.
“I am very satisfied,” he told Postmedia newspapers on Monday. We had 10 games on the schedule and we played them all. We know that we have a long way to go and that there will surely be challenges ahead. We would be naive to think otherwise. ”
In fact, the task of organizing a season with only 13 teams at the starting line is rather colossal, especially since the public health constraints linked to travel are very real. However, Crelin remains optimistic.
“We had a detailed return-to-play plan for athletes and instructors on how to do this. We are working with all relevant jurisdictions and health officials to provide a safe work environment, said the leader. In the arenas, a lot of effort has also been expended. It is surely not the environment we are used to, but it allows us to be on the way home. ”
Not perfect, but not so bad
For the first weekend of activities, ECHL counted over 3,000 fans for games in Florida and South Dakota. However, at Wheeling only 759 people were admitted, as only season pass holders were admitted by the Nailers.
When it comes to teams in action, regardless of location, the league imposes COVID-19 testing on its players and coaches twice a week. She says she is ready to make adjustments, depending on developments to come in the coming weeks.
“It will be daily monitoring to make sure the teams are following the required protocols. If a player is declared positive, we will take another path and if not, well, it will be a different step to follow ”, philosophized the commissioner.