SPOKANE, Wash. — When the news came on March 12th the Western Hockey League was suspending the regular season, perhaps no team was hit harder than the the Chiefs. Spokane's 10 game win streak was the longest in the league at the time, and was the team's longest in 11 years.
With just 4 games left in the regular season, Spokane was playing their best hockey of the 2019-20 campaign. The Chiefs 87 points were just one fewer than the team had all of last year, so there was an excellent chance the team would surpass that mark, and even get to the 90 point plateau.
Spokane was locked into finishing third in the division, but there was a chance to finish 3rd overall in the conference, something that could prove to be huge come playoff time.
Those chances to attain those goals all went by the wayside on March 18th when the WHL canceled the rest of the regular season as a result of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
While putting an end to the regular campaign, the league left open the possibility of the playoffs being contested later in the spring. The big question is, how long will the league wait until calling the season as a whole? Other leagues, like the East Coast Hockey League, have canceled their playoffs and won't start again until the fall.
The other leagues in the Canadian Hockey, the Quebec and Ontario, have kept the possibility of the playoffs open; following the NHL and AHL in that decision.
There's no doubt the CHL is following the NHL's lead. The top league in the world is intent on having the Stanley Cup competed for this year, although the virus may have the last word on that matter.
While there hasn't been a drop dead date set as of yet, common sense would dictate if the banning of crowds and social distancing policies continue into July, having playoffs wrapping up in August will seem a big stretch when the teams would be turning around the next month to start a new season. The CHL has the added step of the Memorial Cup, which generally lasts a week and a half after the league playoffs end.
To preserve the Cup being played for in a timely fashion, it stands to reason that the CHL playoffs have to start sometime in May. I would have to also think the playoffs will be done in an abbreviated fashion, especially in the early rounds.
Instead of 7 games series in the first and possibly second rounds, I can see 5 game sets or even 3 game series being contested. While none of this has been publicly put out, there's no doubt there's scenario's being drawn up to enable the Chiefs and other teams in the CHL to finish up their seasons in the playoffs.
I certainly hope it happens. It will be a challenge to get teams to come back from a 2 month hiatus to pick up where they left off. It has to be so difficult for the players, who have now scattered and headed home, to keep up the conditioning they will need to hit the ice full speed when or if they are able to return.
To mentally prepare for a season that may not happen is going to be as big a demand as these players will ever encounter. It's uncharted territory the world of sports is in right now and there isn't a definitive answer as to what will occur over the next couple of months.
I just know I miss watching players like Adam Beckman, Eli Zummack, Ty Smith, Noah King, Jack Finley, Filip Kral, Bear Hughes, Lukas Parik and the entire team do their thing at the top of their game.
I do know with the end of the regular season, Adam Beckman is the first Chief to win the league scoring title since Mitch Holmberg back in 2014. It would be a shame if he doesn't get to show what he can do in the playoffs.
It would also be a shame to see the careers of Noah King, Filip Kral, Leif Mattson and Ty Smith end without a chance to win a championship. Every other team in the league is in the same boat, but I just would hate to see the same fate come to these players like it did for the thousands of NCAA athletes when their winter and spring sports championships were canceled.
Hopefully there will be better news in the weeks ahead and we'll be able to talk about results on the ice sooner than later!