In comments disclosed to The Boar Sport, a Coventry Blaze spokesperson has admitted that it would be “near impossible” for the Elite Ice Hockey League to function with current social distancing measures in place. League bosses are expected to meet on 15 September to determine the fate of the 2020/21 season.
In a social media Q&A session, Cardiff Devils managing director Todd Kelman insisted that EIHL clubs could not begin the new season with arena capacities significantly hampered. The Canadian said: “Even at 50% capacity, unless there was a realistic timeline to quickly get to [full] capacity, teams would struggle to make it work.”
In response to questions posed by The Boar Sport, a Blaze spokesperson said: “What Todd says is accurate. For us, it would be near impossible to operate with social distancing as it is at present.”
I don’t think all teams would be up for it, but some want to try
– Todd Kelman
In a statement published on 29 August, Manchester Storm owner Jamie Tunstall admitted that the EIHL’s proposed December start date could be pushed back into 2021.
Kelman added: “I don’t think all teams would be up for [a February start] but some would want to try.”
With the IIHF World Championships scheduled to take place next summer, a delayed EIHL season would be condensed into a five-month campaign. When asked about Coventry’s willingness to compete in a delayed and condensed season, a Blaze spokesperson responded: “If the circumstances were right, we’d be prepared to do Feb-June”.
Amid growing uncertainty regarding the viability of the upcoming EIHL season, several high-profile players have left British clubs in recent weeks. Cardiff Devils captain Joey Martin was permitted to “explore options in other leagues,” and was subsequently signed by Norwegian powerhouse Stavanger.
Guildford Flames defenseman Stephen Lee was also given clearance to seek pastures new, signing for Italian outfit HC Pustertal Wolfe.
We wouldn’t stand in the way of a player who had an opportunity to play elsewhere
– Coventry Blaze spokesperson
Coventry Blaze have retained six players from last season’s roster, although are yet to announce new signings ahead of the 2020/21 season. A Blaze spokesperson confirmed the club “wouldn’t stand in the way of a player who had an opportunity to play and make a living elsewhere.”
Interest in EIHL players from European leagues has intensified over recent weeks, with many UK-based players moving to the continent during the offseason. Team GB netminder Ben Bowns completed a switch Graz99ers earlier this summer, marking the end of a six-year stint in Cardiff.
A Coventry spokesperson confirmed that the club has “things planned to keep fans connected” to the organisation if the season is cancelled, adding that supporters can continue to help the Blaze by “support[ing] the raffles and continu[ing] to engage” with the team.
The EIHL board is expected to meet on 15 September to determine whether the 2020/21 season will be able to take place. A league statement is expected to follow the crunch meeting, with an update regarding the proposed 5-6 December ‘Magic Five’