The COVID-19 pandemic curve is seemingly beginning to flatten in most of North America. While this is great news, and hopefully a sign of good things to come, it’s important to note that we’re not out of the woods yet, and that the road ahead is a long one.
However, with cases and deaths going down, it’s unsurprising to see institutions start to toy with the idea of reopening. The NHL is obviously no exception, so we’ll get to that, and much more, in today’s edition of Links, News, and Notes!
- Seemingly putting the speculation to an end, pending free agent Artyom Zub has verbally committed to signing with the Ottawa Senators.
According to multiples sources, Russian free agent Artyom Zub has verbally committed to sign with the #Sens once his KHL contract expires April 30.— Hailey Salvian (@hailey_salvian) April 27, 2020
Nothing is final yet, but it’s expected he will sign the first week of May. More on that here: https://t.co/LtzlXgSBMI
First reported by The Athletic’s Hailey Salvian, the KHL defender seems to have agreed to sign with the Senators when his contract expires on April 30th. Ottawa has been connected to Zub since January, and it seems like he has the potential to be a good fit. Zub posted career-highs this year with St. Petersburg SKA, potting 13 goals and nine assists in 57 games.
- Seemingly having more success in his second go-round, Anaheim Ducks head coach Dallas Eakins opened up about his doomed 2014 stint with the Edmonton Oilers.
Eakins did so in a piece for NHL.com, by Brian Compton, explaining that he went in with a “bad plan” that ultimately did him in.
“It was a tough place to go in. There were a number of challenges...Instead of going in and planting seeds, I went in with a blow torch and I torched the place. In the end, what that accomplished was there was me and there was them. There was never, ever we. I’d like to go back and do that over again. What’s interesting, that wasn’t something I’d ever done before...It was always kind of a ‘we, we, we’ culture. My thought process on that other job was just to go in there and get this right right away and kind of wake that room up and the organization up right away, and it was a bad plan.
Live and learn. This is why I don’t always get it when people are upset about hiring retread coaches. Sometimes a fresh face is good, but people also learn from their mistakes, and become better for it.
- While there have been rumblings of the NHL trying to reopen for the past month or so, it’s beginning to feel as if things are in motion, with the league and NHLPA reportedly forming a committee to figure out the logistics of a potential return. Ron Hainsey of the Senators is a member.
The news was first reported by the New York Post’s Larry Brooks, who also pointed out some major roadblocks that the NHL will have to overcome in order to return:
Kaapo Kakko, for example, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and celiac five or six years ago. Montreal’s Max Domi and Minnesota’s Luke Kunin have also been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, those individuals with Type 1 diabetes are not necessarily more susceptible to contracting COVID-19 but are likely to face worse outcomes.
Brian Boyle, of course, was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia in 2017. He has been in full remission since October 2018 but may face a higher risk than the general playing population. There are other players with auto-immune issues. This is a topic on the PA’s list that must be addressed.
- Further to this, Ed Willes of The Province voiced some of his concerns surrounding a reopening of the league, and the dangers that they’d be facing.
Willes says that the risk the league is facing is grave, and that the reasons behind a return would be solely to prevent major financial losses.
But the calculation here is over the risk and the reward. And the risk to the NHL is gargantuan on so many levels.
There are smart people running the league. There are also greedy people running the league. It’s been clear for a couple of weeks now the NHL is pushing this plan to finish the season, and the only force that can stop it is the public health authority.
With so much at stake, they’d better get it right.
- Let’s finish on a lighter note. One of the feel-good stories of the past couple years, the Kenya Ice Lions are working towards IIHF membership.
Ice Lions officials are in the process of forming the Kenya Federation of Ice Sports, a body that would be recognized by the Kenyan government to develop hockey, speedskating and figure skating. The federation would have the authority to apply for IIHF affiliate status for Kenya.
If successful, the Ice Lions will become the fourth African team to achieve IIHF membership status, after Algeria, Morocco, and South Africa, with Egypt and Tunisia also seeking to join. The team has had supporters in Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon, Viacheslav Fetisov, and more.
Good luck, Ice Lions. What a great story for them, and for the sport of hockey as a whole.