The next time the Guelph Storm hits the ice in full colours it will have been 26 days since they last played a game.
Seven of their last eight games have been postponed and it’s fingers crossed – as it always is these days – that the game in Windsor Jan. 13 actually gets played.
“Every indication is we are pushing on,” said Storm coach/GM George Burnett. “The main thing is, and always has been, the safety of the players.”
The Storm has had a handful of players who have had to enter COVID protocols since returning from the Christmas break but as of Thursday all were cleared to play.
“We try to stick to our same routine, the older guys come in during the morning and our practices are at the same time in the afternoon.
“We do some competitive drills and scrimmaging in there,” Burnett added, fully cognizant of the fact it’s not the same as game action.
One of the differences has been not being able to do off-site training or team building.
Unfortunately it’s the new reality of a league where some teams have now played seven more games than others, a disparity that will only increase this weekend.
Just how that will look moving forward remains to be seen, as wanting to finish the season and being able to finish the full season are two different things.
There are already more outbreaks postponing more games. Will the season be shortened? How can it happen if the ‘no fans’ restriction remains in place? Is there financial assistance on the way to help make a fan-less season possible?
If the league plans on playing a full season, it can’t push back the end of the season too much, given that it started late in the first place. As missed games need to be added, it could push back the Memorial Cup into late June.
One option is shortening the season and or shortening best-of-seven playoff rounds into -best-of-five series.
But while the options are there, it is unlikely any will take place unless either fans get back in the buildings or the league receives some sort of financial assistance.
There’s a big difference between playing three weeks without fans – and revenue – and going the rest of the season without them. The odd team could eat those financial losses, but many couldn’t.
The league’s statement earlier this week that it is committed to finishing this season
It did have one immediate effect, as teams that seemed hesitant to make significant trades suddenly started making some very big ones.
Guelph got into the act Friday by picking up two decent overage players from the Sarnia Sting. The trade deadline for non-overage players is Monday at noon, but don’t expect the Storm to make any big deals.
“We don’t anticipate a lot of moves with our club” or within the conference, Burnett said, pointing to the fact teams have played much fewer games and the wheat hasn’t necessarily been separated from the chaff yet.
“There’s nobody out of it, especially in our conference,” Burnett said of the Western Conference, where six points separate the top five teams.
Guelph currently sits in second place in the Western Conference.