Coventry Blaze – the nearly men?
This week, the Elite League teams would have prepared for the play-offs, but because of the coronavirus, we will never know exactly who would have won.
Cardiff Devils may have been at the head of the league before the closure, but in the case of Coventry Blaze there is one case suggesting that they could have been to be top dogs at the end of what would become the most dramatic title race in the Elite League . Yes, even more than last year.
If you think back, Coventry played a huge role in handing over the title to the Belfast Giants by beating Cardiff Devils in the last game to make sure that 39; Adam Keefe and his men spend a night remembering.
This year, it could be Danny Stewart, triple winner of the league as a player with the Blaze, who could have carried the trophy in triumph.
And, almost three weeks after the close of the league, the Blaze coach can only think about what could have been.
"In all honesty, it would be safe to say that we were happy with our season, but it was a great year in many ways, like where we were and being able to challenge for a title," said Stewart.
"What really made us good was the group we had and the shape we had in the second half of the season, it was definitely a fun race. I will not lie. Seeing the season cut short was a punch in the gut.
"I think, of myself to everyone involved, that we continue to deal with it and that it was certainly a difficult way to end the season, but given the circumstances and what was going on everywhere else, completely understandable.
"I certainly think we won the title was doable, but there were probably three or four others who thought the same thing. Cardiff was the best placed at the time.
"We had Fife on Friday and although they sometimes struggled, it wouldn't have been a formality. Take into account that Cardiff had a match tough against Guildford, so he would have gone to Dundee, a place we were just before the stop and they gave us the hell of a game.
"He would have set up an interesting game with the Devils in Cardiff on Wednesday and I would have liked to see where we were going in that one. The result of this match could have prompted us, s & # 39; he had succeeded, but we will never know now.
Blaze still had six games to go, facing Fife Flyers at home, going to Cardiff, welcoming Guildford Flames and then trips to Nottingham Panthers and Fife before a final confrontation with Belfast at the Skydome.
All victories achievable in the context where Cardiff and Sheffield, the two teams above them were to be played on the last day. Not to mention the fact that the Devils met Belfast the day before and that the Steelers had to go to Manchester, a place they had won once this season.
As Danny says, the saddest thing about this is that we will never know how close Blaze would have been, but there were so many reasons to be satisfied with his point of view.
On the one hand, they reached the play-offs in relative ease, compared to Stewart's three previous years when they scraped last weekend in the past two seasons and didn’t weren't even successful at all during his first campaign.
He added: "Being in the top eight from the start certainly made the end of the season much less stressful, but with that, new tensions arise.
"As the calendar progressed, we suddenly found ourselves playing for a championship and each match becomes a play-off for this reason.
"But knowing that you had booked your ticket early was a great thing for us compared to the previous two years and the fact that we were able to push it even further was a great thing.
"There has been a lot of discussion and a lot of buzz about the team this season. Everyone says Coventry Blaze is back, but I thought about it fact that we had a great team last year.
"I felt we had a good year and, yes, the final ranking of the eighth did not blow you away, but we scored the third highest number of goals in the league and the difference between where we were and fourth , maybe even third place was seven points.
"It It was such good margins last year and more this year, but I felt we had a good team a year ago and what we have done this season has been a few years in the making and have made good progress. "
All the players went home and with the lock in place, the club, like everywhere else, is effectively in stasis until the coronavirus pandemic is over and things can get back to a certain level level of normality.
So how does this affect planning for next season? Can a coach even plan for next season when we now see sporting events scheduled much later in the summer being canceled now?
Stewart admits it's tricky at this point, but he is in favor of the Magic 5 Weekend concept proposed by the Elite League as an alternative to the canceled playoff weekend.
He said: "The persistent uncertainty makes it difficult to plan for the next season. Our main goal was to get everyone home, pay their wages and be safe. Make sure he was fine.
"The club is closed for the moment and we will have to wait and see what is going on with this virus. But I am in talks with several players this season and we will see what happens.
"Regarding the Magic 5 weekend, I really like the idea and the league was in a position where, whatever they crop up, there would be critics. Whether it suits people or not, it will form their opinion on this.
"Everyone took a hit, individually, by team or by league, so we need to find ways to generate revenue as a league."
"It will be good for the players to see their opponents early and the same for the coaches. The majority of the fans will be excited, but you're never going to please everyone.
"I think it was a great idea that was made under difficult circumstances."