When the American Hockey League ended its 2019-2020 season in mid-March, the Hershey Bears had 14 games remaining on the schedule and coach Spencer Carberry was just three wins shy of reaching the 40-win plateau for a second consecutive season. Reaching that number will be a herculean task the way things are shaping up for the 2020-2021 campaign.
“December fourth is the target date for both the NHL and AHL to start the season which means, I think the NHL camp will run starting mid-November and the AHL camps will start around November 23 and then roll right into the regular season starting on the December 4 date,” Carberry said. “Obviously, there will have to be fewer games since we’re missing time from mid-October to the end of November. That might be a secondary thing to see if they can actually start on that date and maybe get 60 games, or if they have to move the start date back even more. If that happens, then how many games can you play if you extend the season into the end of April, but it will be tricky?”
Another scenario the league is probably examining with the reduced schedule is just playing teams within the current division alignments, which could eliminate several problems due to the Covid-19 regulations,‘Carbs’ pointed out.
“Whatever scenario they come up with schedule-wise, there will be even more than normal division games in order to reduce the amount of travel time on the bus and minimal hotels,” said Carberry. “Charlotte’s situation is a whole different animal and the border teams are another problem.”
An advisory committee is working on the problems that affect all four divisions, but one solution for the Canadian-based teams might be to play some games in arenas on this side of the border, if there is a chance the border might open early next year.
Another problem is how long the AHL teams can continue to play without fans attending the games, despite getting financial assistance from its NHL club.
“The NHL could afford to do something without fans and still collect TV revenue, so that’s OK for them, but what is the trade off for them if they are willing to lose money to have prospects playing games?” Carberry said.
Switching to other subjects that recently affected the Washington Capitals, when head coach Todd Reirden was fired, Carberry said, “I feel bad for him because over the last couple of years he helped me a lot, but that’s the crappie part of our business.”
On a more upbeat note is former Hershey coach Bruce Boudreau, who joined the NHL Network and is considering whether he wants to join the Toronto Maple Leafs as an assistant coach.
“I know Bruce a little bit from a few contacts with him when he was coaching in Washington and I saw him in action at the training camp,” Carberry said with a laugh. “He’s had a great career and has a big following in Hershey, where he won the 2005-06 Calder Cup, so I feel he will eventually find another head coaching job.”
The last question had to do with who will be the NHL teams in the conference finals of the playoffs.
“The Islanders looked really, really good but so does Boston,” said Carberry. “In the west, at the time we’re talking, I’d say Las Vegas but I really think you just throw a dart for both conferences.”