With training camp for the 2020-21 season only days away, the Winnipeg Jets are preparing for one of the most unusual hockey seasons in recent memory: a shortened, 56-game season, in which the team will play in a temporary North Division populated solely by Canadian NHL teams.
680 CJOB hockey analyst Leah Hextall said she’s looking forward to seeing young prospects like Ville Heinola, Dylan Samberg and Cole Perfetti — currently a member of the dominant Team Canada at the world junior hockey championships — on the ice in Winnipeg, but despite the lengthy time off, she’s not worried about any of the team being unprepared.
“I don’t think we’re going to have to worry about these guys being in shape, because they always are when they come to camp. They’re ready to go, they want to get back at it,” said Hextall.
“This has been a difficult time with mental health for everyone, with COVID-19 — that does not change for athletes. This is their release. This is them getting back to doing what they’re doing with some sort of normalcy, so I think all of these players are going to be ready to go.
“There’s a lot of talent on this team, and it’s a very unusual season once again. I’m looking forward to seeing not only how the Jets do, but I’m one of those people who is truly thrilled to see the North Division and having a fully Canadian division and what that will bring on in this season coming up.”
In a release from the team, Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said the unique situation brought about by the pandemic means juggling a number of factors when it comes to constructing the Jets’ lineup.
“We’re in the information-gathering stages of those things trying to understand where the American Hockey League might, you know, how to fit in and how it might operate for us this year,” said Cheveldayoff.
“The CHL side of it that does come into play, when we have a young player like Cole Perfetti coming to camp for the first time. Then just even the European situation, there’s so much information that you’re taking in and you’re compiling.”
One twist to this COVID-19-impacted season is the fact that some players may have to quarantine before suiting up with the Jets.
“You’re trying to make sure that you’re keeping that group as tight and as safe as possible,” Cheveldayoff said.
“I’ve had the fortune of being on some of the calls between the provinces and the Players Association in the National Hockey League.
“We’re all going through some real tough times here with respect to having to stay inside having to quarantine.”
Jets forward Andrew Copp told media Tuesday that he’s hoping to see some intensity from the team right out of the gate, especially given the short warmup time — no pre-season games — and the truncated season.
“I think we could just, you know, start with intensity right from the first day of practice,” said Copp.
“We’re playing a hockey game in 10 days, so we’ve got to get ready. Hopefully there’s a little bit more jump, a little bit more passion, a little bit more intensity in practice… just because we’ve got to prepare ourselves for that first night.
“(Usually) I can have three or four pre-season games where you’re kind of trying to figure things out and work your way through them… but we’ve got to be ready to go right away.”