Season start delay of six weeks to cope with Covid

The New Zealand Ice Hockey League has delayed the season start by six weeks to deal with Omicron outbreak challenges.

A new schedule confirmed today will show the NZIHL starting on June 11, postponed from April 30.

Financial repercussions, due to the cap on spectators, and the health risk to the players provided "substantial logistical challenges", New Zealand Ice Hockey Federation president Andy Mills said.

"It is because of our shared passion for the sport that we can persevere through these trying times and use every tool we have at our disposal to bring the game to ice rinks around New Zealand."

A modified schedule shows the season starting with several rounds of derby games — including the Stampede hosting the Thunder in Queenstown on June 24-25.

That would significantly reduce the cost to the league and negate the risk of inter-island travel, Mills said.

"The season will return to our standard format from July 23 with teams resuming nationwide travel at this point.

"We hope that by delaying the season start, New Zealand will be at a point in its Covid-19 response where games will be able to take place without spectator limits."

If Red settings remained, the season would still get finished, Mills said.

The national federation would provide financial support to teams, and all games would be livestreamed.

The only other significant change is that the Auckland Mako, the NZIHL’s development team that plays non-official games within the league schedule, will only play games in Auckland.

Mills said the plan was to get in a full competition, including semifinals and finals. The playoffs were cancelled last year, robbing the undefeated Stampede of a chance to claim the Birgel Cup.

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