Preparations for the 2020/21 season have begun in earnest with teams announcing players for next year and season tickets already being snapped up – but will it be in vain?
The coronavirus outbreak has impacted on our lives so much both personally and professionally that all we can do is literally sit tight until we start to get some kind of green light that we can begin to resume our lives again.
So, it’s right that the teams are working away in the background to get ready for the new season, but what if there is no season?
The Government announced lockdown measures would be extended for another three weeks last week and the number of deaths continues to rise.
Sporting events are still falling by the way side far into the summer, which would raise questions about whether the Champions Hockey League will begin in its usual late August berth.
In time, we’ll start to see measures being eased and lifted and normality begins to return when we are able to return to work and be around other people again.
But when it comes to mass crowd events such as sport and concerts, these will be far down the list of things that can return to what we’re used to. More importantly, when that will be, we just don’t know.
Manchester Storm have announced two players for next season, the latest of which Cam Critchlow
Welcome back, Cam Critchlow! ⛈️
"We are excited to have Critch back again this season. He’s a leader and one of the best 2-way centres in the league" – Head Coach, Ryan Finnerty.#WeAreStorm | #BePartOfIt | #Manchester pic.twitter.com/GLcK1okUiz
— Manchester Storm (@Mcr_Storm) April 17, 2020
Omar Pacha told us recently he’s planning as he would do during any other off-season with Dundee Stars and they announced their first signing for 2020/21 in Craig Garrigan.
Manchester Storm have already announced the return of two of their players from the season just (prematurely) finished in Cam Critchlow and Tyson Fawcett.
Plus six out of the ten Elite Leagues are taking information for season tickets next year and will, inevitably, begin taking payments. It’s certainly nothing wrong with doing that.
However, we have to keep in mind the very real possibility that we may not see any on-ice action this side of Christmas. For all that we know, that could genuinely happen.
The thirst to get back to watching ice hockey is very real out there and fans have lapped up the old games each club have been showing in an attempt to fill the void.
But we have to be honest enough that once restrictions are lifted, it still could be some time before we can fill arenas in their thousands.
The fact four of those teams – Fife Flyers, Glasgow Clan, Guildford Flames and Nottingham Panthers – haven’t released any information at the time of writing appertaining to next season suggests a couple of things to me.
Perhaps their own uncertainty over next season could be one of them. The other could be incorporating the remaining games from 2020/21 into an offer for next season. Another reason could be there are deliberately waiting to release this in their own time.
Having made a loss on the cancellation of the season and forced to take a financial hit would be compounded by taking another if the new campaign is held up or shortened.
Either way, the clubs can’t win. In an ideal world, everything will begin again as normal in August/September and none of what I’ve written above matters. Even I want that.
The likelihood is it won’t and there could be another financial hit if season tickets and the number of games on them is cut again.
But, like us all, the clubs are in limbo and either have to prepare as normal, like some are doing, or exercise some level of caution in the hope any more financial losses can be minimised. It’s a tightrope for them to walk in these uncertain times.
They’ll be damned if they do or damned if they don’t. In the meantime, there will be more signings to come as the teams whet our appetite for next season. They have to and as fans, we need it.
We can only hope there won’t be more disappointment in being able to visit our rinks and arenas, but be prepared because chances are it will be.