On March 12th the Gulls had their season suspended, then ultimately cut short by COVID-19. More than seven months removed from their last appearance, the gameplan for next season is unclear.
“I think everybody's kind of in the same boat right now,” forward Chase De Leo said. “They don't know too much, there's a lot of uncertainty.”
What we have learned since March is that a hockey season can play out during a pandemic. The NHL provided evidence of that.
“I think that they shocked a lot of people with no positive COVID tests,” De Leo added. “They did an excellent job.”
The league's bubble plan allowed them to carry out the postseason. Defenseman Andy Welinski experienced the unique environment with the Flyers.
“It was different,” Welinski said. “But it was very seamless, and they did a great job of organizing it.”
The NHL does not intend on playing out next season in a bubble, but having just had their season end less than three weeks ago, neither they nor the AHL have set a blueprint for the 2020-2021 campaign.
“We don't really know what to expect,” center Andrew Poturalski said. “You got to trust that they'll do the right thing.”
One unknown is whether games will be open to fans. That decision isn't made entirely by leagues - with local guidelines determining whether crowds can gather indoors. It's an especially relevant question for the Gulls, who are always among the AHL leaders in attendance,
“We love playing in front of the fans,” De Leo said. “I think they bring energy to the game and definitely an excitement to the game. I personally hope we'll be able to have fans while keeping it safe.”
More than anything, they want to play. Aside from having games canceled, the Gulls haven't been able to get together on the ice, and players have had to adjust their offseason training routine to follow the new set of rules.
“If we want to move forward and keep having positive direction here, we got to keep taking the necessary steps,” De Leo said.
As of now, all that is set is a target date. The NHL hopes to start the regular season January 1st, with the AHL expected to follow.
“We've been training or a long time now - doing practicing, a lot of drills - but there's nothing like playing games,” De Leo added. “That's the best part about it.”