NBLC still hasn’t cancelled season entirely, but players are leaving N.L. and returning home
The National Basketball League of Canada has not changed the status of its 2019-20 season from one of suspension to cancellation, but while that might indicate there is hope within the NBLC for a resumption of play, there doesn’t appear to be any expectation of that happening soon as the coronavirus pandemic widens in North America.
The St. John’s Edge have arranged for their players, the majority of whom are American, to return to their off-season homes.
“If the season is to come back, we will fly back and resume,” said Edge head coach Steve Marcus, “but (we remain) suspended indefinitely at this time.”
There is only a month left in what was to be the NBLC’s original regular-season schedule — the Edge’s last game was to have been April 16 — but the halting of the season now proves to be very unfortunate for the Edge (11-9, who have 16 games remaining, including 10 games that were slated for Mile One Centre; that’s more than half of St. John’s 18-game home schedule for the entire season.
The 10 home games include two against the Sudbury Five that were to have been played in St. John’s in January, but were postponed by the winter storm that shut down eastern Newfoundland.
While the NBLC has not completely shut down its season, the ECHL has done so and the Newfoundland Growlers players have already begun returning to their homes.
There had been some though that some of the many AHL-contracted players on the Growlers may remain in the organizational setting in the case they were needed by the Toronto Marlies since the AHL has not cancelled its season entirely.
However, the AHL announced Monday it doesn’t expect a resumption of its season until May at the earliest and has instructed teams they should allow their players to return to their homes.
By the way, there still might be hope players on ECHL contracts will receive they pay until the end of the season.
As it stands, and as a result of an agreement last weekend between the ECHL and the Professional Hockey Players Association, the union representing minor-leaguers, the pay for ECHL-contracted players stopped as of Monday.
That’s led to a social media backlash, by fans and some media targeted mostly at the league, and by players who have expressed their chagrin with PHPA.
There were internal discussions within the union Monday about the possibility of having the policy changed. And given there has been nothing definitive from the league on the matter, there is a sense there may be those within the ECHL who also believed the situation could be addressed differently.
Given the Newfoundland team and parent Toronto Maple Leafs have earned a reputation for AHL-level treatment of their players, the Growlers probably could be seen as among those who might willing to make up the difference, although the team’s chief executive office, Glenn Stanford has repeatedly said he can only “defer to the league” when asked about the matter.
Two-thirds of the Growlers will continue to be paid as they are on AHL contracts (goalie Angus Redmond actually has an NHL entry-level deal with the Anaheim Ducks); players with AHL and NHL contracts are still drawing their salaries.
However, most of the Growlers’ counterpart clubs have rosters with the vast majority of players on ECHL contracts, which on average, pay about $630 (US) per week, in addition to provided accommodations.
To put that in perspective — and using that average salary — if the league’s 26 teams each had 16 players on ECHL deals, it works out to 416 player. It would take approximately $780,000 to pay all those players for the remaining three weeks of the now-cancelled regular-season.
That’s about the same as what a single fourth-line NHLer makes in a season.
Pat Yetman, owner of Yetman’s Arena in St. John’s, sent out this message Monday, announcing the facility is being closed because of the coronavirus crisis:
“The joy, the laughs and the friendships that hockey brings to our daily life cannot be replaced. Through our programs at the arena, I have got to know so many people and developed great friendships.
“We have an opportunity to keep our families safe and that leaves us no choice but to close. It breaks my heart to do this but the quicker everything shuts down the sooner we can get back on the ice.
“Yetman's Arena is closed.”