Author Jayleigh Cape once said: “Life keeps throwing me curveballs and I don’t even own a bat. At least my dodging skills are improving”. I’m certain many of us can identify with those sentiments in light of recent events. A global pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we live and interact as a species for the foreseeable future, the shocking and unabated rise of white supremacists and political extremism, and a general inability for respectful exchange of ideas has left many of us feeling bruised and battered, without the tools we need to deal with such challenges. It’s depressing.
I’ve started and stopped writing this article a dozen times, spiralling at observing the unkind exchanges between individuals and groups at every level of society. However, the show must go on. Another author, Bret Easton Ellis penned the comment, “I needed something – the distraction of another life – to alleviate fear”. For me, and perhaps even for you, it’s hockey. So, without further ado, here are some things to look forward to over the next few months that can help distract us from our impending societal implosion.
The NWHL Bubble
The National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) announced in late November that a shortened 2021 season and Isobel Cup Playoffs would be held in Lake Placid from January 23 to February 5.
Following that announcement, NBC announced that for the first time ever, a NWHL game would be broadcast live on national television, as NBC secured the rights for the semi-finals and final. It is difficult to overstate how important this is for the growth of women’s hockey continentally and globally. At last year’s NHL All-Star weekend event, a three-on-three game was played between Team Canada and Team USA and broadcast as part of the skills event. Many people got to see women play on television for the first time and were impressed at the level of skill these athletes possessed. Showing the finals live on national television will attract new fans, sponsorship, and provide excellent entertainment.
So, what can we expect from this season? Rather than reading my opinions, give shortman_hams a follow on Twitter. She has produced some excellent short videos previewing all six teams and providing an introduction to the NWHL. She has her own website where she writes prolifically on all things ice hockey. Here is the link in question for the NWHL: https://ham-sports.com/2021/01/04/choose-your-nwhl-team-a-quick-guide-to-the-nwhl-and-their-teams/
From January 13 to July 7, the NHL will play a shortened 56 game season. The divisions look a little differently this year, due to border complications between the United States and Canada, an All-Canadian division has been formed. Additionally, in an effort to lessen the financial impact of COVID-19, teams have been permitted to acquire helmet sponsors, and each division has an official sponsor. Yes it’s weird, but if it helps keep the NHL functioning I can live with it.
Each team will play only the teams within their division for the entirety of the regular season (May 8). Then, the top-four teams from each division will continue to play internally for two rounds until one team from each division remains. These four teams will then be re-seeded based on their regular season point totals (first plays fourth, second plays third). I would anticipate that teams will get used to playing a certain way in each division, so it will be interesting what will happen, if anything, when teams face a non-divisional opponent for the first time in the semi-finals.
I will be coming out with some predictions throughout the season, but as a Leafs’ fan I can say that I am in the hopeful carriage of the train of unending disappointment. I am sincerely looking forward to Montreal potentially being competitive at the same time as the Leafs, those games have become spicy lately. The prospect of a first or second round Habs vs Leafs matchup is salivating. Regardless, I think Leafs fans are thankful the earliest they can play Boston is in the third round.
What’s Next for Hockey Embassy?
Recently my annual renewal subscription came up, and I seriously considered putting that couple hundred bucks to other uses. I just got married, I have a baby on the way (due February 2), and the world is a pretty crappy place. But I like writing, and I love hockey. Although I am also doing things for Ice Hockey Australia, it’s nice to have the freedom to come online here and write whatever I like, within tasteful reason. It’s a form of catharsis for me, and I hope someone in the void finds it slightly enjoyable too. I’ll never put ads up, and I figure if this website in some small way helps to grow the game here in Australia, that’s gravy. At the very least, it’s a much needed distraction.
Thanks for reading and making it this far. As I’m going to be a dad soon, I’ve been brushing up on my dad jokes, so here’s one to reward you, let me know what the groan factor was in the comments: I had a dream that I invented a colour …. but when I woke up I realised it was just a pigment of my imagination.
Feel free to give me a follow/like/subscribe on socials, and stay safe.