While Colorado Avalanche fans spend the summer counting down the days to next season we consider whether the NHL should implement a summer league.
A few weeks ago Marc Moser posed a question to Colorado Avalanche fans: Should There Be An NHL Summer League?
While I can see the appeal of not having to spend the summer with no hockey, my first instinct is to say that I don’t think a summer league is a good idea. The NHL season is long and grueling, with the players suffering numerous, often serious, injuries. Fans are used to bracing themselves, when the playoffs are over or their team gets eliminated, for the the inevitable list of injuries the players were playing through.
Players need the summer to rest, recover, get married or take a vacation before training starts up again. We’ve still got another two months before we reach NHL preseason and the majority of players are already training and getting themselves into peak condition ready to start. I don’t see how there is room in the recovery and training schedule for more games of hockey.
Even if you make the case that the summer league would be for the rookies and college players, and give the NHL stars the recovery and training time they need, you have to consider that they have their own needs to cater for. Just because a player is in the minor leagues or a college team they’re still going to encounter injuries and need to train the same way the NHL players do. Are players going to want to risk potential injuries, that might damage their in season game, by playing over the summer?
And it’s not as though there isn’t hockey to enjoy during the NHL summer months. As I mentioned in my Tips For Surviving The Offseason post the Australian league is in the middle of their season and they stream a lot of their games. If people are desperate for a hockey fix there is hockey available.
I just don’t feel the benefits of more NHL hockey outweighs the risks.
Our very own Nadia has a different opinion though.
My first thought when Marc Moser asked if hockey should have a summer league is, “Yes! More hockey.” Of course, Hils makes some good points, though. All players, whether minor leaguers or NHLers need recovery time.
To be honest, I’m pretty hockey-centric. The idea of a summer league came about because it’s what the NBA does. Since I don’t know too much about that, I decided to do some research.
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Well, as I was reading about the NBA Summer League, it sounds an awful lot like the rookie showcases the NHL has been doing — this one will be the third season. Rookies and prospects from around the league get together and play a round robin against rookies and prospects from other teams. That’s the way the NBA does it in July, and that’s the way the NHL does it in September before rookie training camp.
That got me to thinking. If the goal is to have more hockey throughout the year, what can we switch around? Well, the NHL’s rookies and prospects already get together in the summer — every NHL team conducts a prospect development camp. What if teams combined their prospect development camp with a prospect showcase, holding the events in July instead of September?
So, imagine this year’s format for the Colorado Avalanche. The rookies and prospects participated in three days’ worth of ice drill that culminated in an intra-squad scrimmage. Instead of playing Team Burgundy vs Team White, though, they could have distilled the prospects down to a single team… and played prospects from another couple teams. Instead of one game, there could have been three.
I see a couple advantages to this format. First of all, we get some legit hockey games in July. Secondly, all the prospects will get a chance to participate. When the prospect showcase takes place this September, the NCAA players will be excluded — no Cale Makar, no Shane Bowers. Both prospects were at development camp.
Plus, the prospects are already here and already training. Three games, perhaps with an NHL-style practice in the middle, only adds to their training.
Holding the tournament in the summer also circumvents the injury question. In the inaugural rookie showcase, then-prospect Mikko Rantanen got injured. It set his season back somewhat because the injury occurred in September, right before the season started.
If the injury had occurred in July, he’d have had plenty of time to recuperate.
This is how a Summer League could work for the NHL.
I actually like that idea a lot. When I heard the term ‘Summer League’ I was picturing it as something that ran for the entirety of the offseason, which is where most of my issues with it lay. A small handful of games in July where the rookies and prospects can show us what they can do while they compete against players from other NHL teams actually sounds like a lot of fun.
So, I’ll change my ‘no, there shouldn’t be a summer league’ to a ‘it could be fun, if it’s done in the right way’.
Ultimately, if it leads to more Colorado Avalanche hockey, why not?