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Return to Play Updates and Paying Tribute to Fred Sasakamoose

It’s the Thursday edition of Links, News and Notes!

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2019 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic - Legacy Luncheon Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

It’s unfortunately been a bit of a bummer of a week in the NHL’s world, but that won’t stop us from sharing the news that got our attention these last few days:

  • That January 1st start date is looking less and less feasible for the NHL. From this CBC piece, it sounds like the league just wants to get things started as soon as possible but they’re already facing a few issues. Several members of the Columbus Blue Jackets and four members of the Vegas Golden Knights have now tested positive. I also don’t think I need to mention that the spread of the virus is much worse now than it was during the playoffs. The league did really well with that bubble, but a full season is a much bigger undertaking. I want hockey back as much as the next person, but it’s going to be very, very difficult for the NHL to do this safely.
  • Hockey Canada has had to suspend its training camp because of - you guessed it - COVID-19! Two players have tested positive, and are self-isolating in the team hotel. Hockey Canada has suspended all training camp activities and they’re going to wait for everyone to complete a 14-day quarantine before they resume operations. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next, because it might tell us something about how quickly the virus can spread within bubbles - will we see an actual outbreak, or will Hockey Canada be able to isolate the two players and prevent further spread? Either way, this sucks, and I wish everyone a speedy recovery.
  • Some sad news this week: Fred Sasakamoose, one of the NHL’s first Indigenous players and a survivor of Canada’s residential school system, has died of COVID-19 at 86 years old. Tributes have been pouring out from around the hockey world, but I’d also like to highlight a Globe and Mail piece from 2016 about Sasakamoose’s experiences in residential school and in NHL hockey. Massive content warning for graphic discussion of colonial violence in this one, but it’s an important read.
  • In better news, you might have heard that the Chicago Blackhawks have hired Kendall Coyne-Schofield as a player development coach, making her the league’s first female development coach (also, cool Sens connection: they hired Erik Condra at the same time). This news comes just a week after the Miami Marlins hired Kim Ng as the first female general manager in men’s pro sports. I’m happy to see a woman finally get a job in the NHL, and hope this becomes a trend.
  • TSN spoke to Akim Aliu about diversity and inclusion in the NHL, a year after he first started tweeting about his experiences with racism in hockey. You can read the piece here!
  • One pro hockey league is trying to come back in 2021! The NWHL officially announced yesterday that it plans to play the 2021 season and postseason in a bubble, with teams first arriving at the end of January. They’re also planning on paying their players a full salary despite the condensed schedule - something I was already concerned about considering how many women’s hockey players need second jobs in order to play hockey. The league only has six teams, so it’s in a very different situation than the NHL, but I’m definitely curious to see how this will work out.
  • Lastly, The Black Girl Hockey Club is accepting applications for another scholarship. Please share it widely, and if you know any Black girls who play hockey: encourage them to apply!