|Shoot the Breeze Photography|
You will always have those that view life with a glass half empty approach. You know them. They are negative, cynical and always choose to look at the bad things in life. We know them as 'Negative Ned' or 'Negative Nancy'. Take your pick. The one common trait is picking apart what only positive people see as a good thing. They thrive on it. It oddly, brings them satisfaction to rain on other people's parade. With the WHL attempting to formulate some kind of 24 game season for the players, those with the loudest voice will try to persuade you why we shouldn't be doing it. They will say it isn't safe. The games are a waste of time. Can't we just wait until September when everyone is assured of getting the vaccine? But I am here to tell you that the WHL season, or whatever you want to call it, is worth saving and playing.
The Players: It's all about the players. It really is. At its core, it's important for these players to be out on the ice playing against their peers. For some, it's a chance to get back to some sense of normalcy. They've been stuck at home for months and months hoping and waiting for a season to start. They say practice makes perfect, but nothing compares to playing competitive hockey. Zero. Nothing. These guys need to play for their mental health. Everyone needs a mental boost. Bring it on!
The NHL Draft: For the draft eligible guys, they need to showcase themselves. The saving grace may be the 2021 NHL Draft being bumped back a year, which is all fine and good, but the Logan Stankoven's of the world need to strut their stuff and show they are a heck of a whole lot better than they were in their rookie seasons. I'd rather see Stankoven - sorry to use him as the poster boy in this argument - strutting his stuff in our league than elsewhere. And heck, Stankoven and many more elite players chose our league, yes I say our league, when they had other options. They committed to us. Now we - as a league - need to commit to them. See how I used the word 'us' and 'our' and 'we' when talking about the WHL? It's because without them, I wouldn't be employed doing what I love to do. I've always said, I will criticize the WHL when warranted, but when people take pot shots at them from afar because they have an axe to grid, I will get my back up to defend the 22 team circuit.
Decision Time: If you are 17-18 or 19, these 24 games give you a chance to prove to yourself and those around you that you haven't plateaued. That you've developed. That you are better than last March when the season was put on pause and eventually scrapped. This also allows the coaching staff to see if these players fit into the long term plans of the organization. Is an 18 year-old good enough to be a massive contributor a season from now when he is 19? Or do we bump up a younger player on the depth chart as the 18 year-old isn't any better than a 16 or 17 year-old teammate? For the 19 year-old's, it is proving that you are worthy of earning three 20 year-old spots next fall, when everyone has had a needle in their arm and we can play a full 2021-2022 season.
The 20's: For the 20 year-old's it's important to play. It literally gives them a chance to play one last time and essentially end their junior careers on the right note. It's saying goodbye, but in a different way by going out on their terms. Can you imagine what it was like for all of the overagers across the league last season not having that same opportunity? Brutal.
The Fans: It's good for the fans to get involved too. They need the distraction. No, seriously they do. Who doesn't? While not allowed in the building for COVID-19 reasons, many eye balls will follow the action, but in a different way. Efforts are being made to bump up the streaming of the games. I anticipate hardcore fans watching from home and cheering on their hometown team while gazing into their laptop or home computer. It will feel odd at first, but wasn't mask wearing strange at the start and now it feels as normal as brushing your teeth.
So, in conclusion, to say these 24 games are irrelevant or meaningless is so short sighted. Look big picture. While the only banners raised will be divisional ones, the positives of dropping the puck far outweigh the negatives. And for those wanting to choose negative over positive, let's allow those people to wallow in their own misery.
I will take the WHL, in any form, over what we've witnessed over the last 10+ months.