Facing COVID challenges, AHL weighs scheduling and Olympics choices

On this edition of 32 Thoughts, Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek discuss Canadian teams playing at home without fans, AHL players that could possibly go to the Olympics and the latest news from the CHL.

With COVID-19 having already forced the AHL to postpone 78 games and extend its season by six days, the league could be forced to make more “awkward decisions,” according to Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek.

“If you go back to U.S. Thanksgiving, the American Hockey League had 31 positive tests, from then to now the number has swelled to just over 300. As of today, the league has had to reschedule 78 games, half of which have already been done,” said Marek during the 32 Thoughts segment on Hockey Night in Canada.

“The AHL has extended their season by six days. Right now the schedule matrix remains the same in that league, but if this continues for the next few weeks, that league may have to make a couple of awkward decisions.”

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world, and then they tell listeners all about what they’ve heard and what they think about it.

Marek also says the league is expected to make a decision on whether players under AHL contracts can participate in the 2022 Beijing Olympics “in the next 10 days or so.” Players under that criteria were allowed to play in the Olympics when the NHL did not participate in the 2018 Sochi Games.

“We expect this to get the rubber stamp, much like it did back in 2018,” said Marek.

Marek states that new Team Canada general manager and former NHLer Shane Doan is expected to bring several players who sported the Red and White at the Channel One Cup, an annual event held in Russia, but the options to select AHL players opens up possibilities.

“It’s expected (Doan) will bring many players from the Channel One Cup team, so that’s your Corbin Knights and your Ryan Spooner’s, but you know, you wonder about other players,” said Marek.

“Now the field is opened up to Cameron Gaunce and Cal O’Reilly and Cody Franson, and then Devin Dubnyk and Derek Pouliot. And dare I say, Josh Ho-Sang as well.”

Jason Garrison, a 37-year-old defenceman who last played an NHL game in 2018-19, signed a professional tryout with the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch earlier this week with the expressed purpose of possibly having the chance to play in Beijing.

The NHL had originally reached an agreement to allow players to participate in the Games before pulling out due to the rise of COVID-19 and game postponements.

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