A few weeks ago you could get the impression that Corona no longer played a major role for the German Ice Hockey League (DEL).

The season started on time and with no prior debate about salaries, the crowd was back, and the strict rules of conduct for the teams were relaxed.

Above all, however, some clubs had struck the transfer market so lavishly that there was no longer any question of a crisis.

But it did not take long to realize that the pandemic is not over.

Many free seats in the stands, several infections in the teams from Mannheim and Wolfsburg.

Now Corona has even had a big impact: dozens of infections became known within a few days, 22 alone at the EHC Red Bull Munich, which, like the Düsseldorfer EG and the Iserlohn Roosters, was quarantined by the local health department.

Ten games have already had to be postponed, and more could follow.

Since then there has been a lot of phone calls and writing, with doctors and TV partners, followed by a two-hour video conference among the clubs on Monday.

There was heated debate, one could hear from participants.

The questions: How did it come to this?

How does it go from here?

Testing significantly reduced

There is still no correct answer to the first question. There are probably several reasons why it suddenly burns in contrast to the previous season, although according to league boss Gernot Tripcke "more than 90 percent of the players" are vaccinated. The Delta variant of the virus is more contagious than the previous one. The players and their families do not live like they were in lockdown, some were vaccinated months ago, and protection may have waned. Not all players are (fully) vaccinated. 

The tests in particular are now a big issue. They were shut down significantly before the new season. On Tuesday, the 15 clubs of the German Ice Hockey League agreed to tighten the corona test protocol again. From November 1st, those who have not been vaccinated will be tested three times a week, and those who have been vaccinated and those who have recovered for more than two months will be tested once a week. The only permissible test method is the PCR method.

The next problem: are there enough catch-up dates? The schedule is already tight this season because of the Olympic break and the additional team from Bietigheim. "We still have enough air and space to catch up on games," said the league office on Monday. But the effects can already be felt, especially in Munich, which also plays in the European Cup. From mid-November, the EHC has nine games in 17 days on schedule, sometimes two on consecutive days.

This Tuesday, Munich should play again for the first time, with the promoted team from Bietigheim. They hardly get three full rows on the ice, but if you have at least one goalkeeper and ten field players, you have to compete. Unless the opponent agrees to move. That’s what the Mannheimers did recently. "Duels between the Adler and the Red Bulls deserve that both teams compete on equal terms," ​​said Adler manager Jan-Axel Alavaara. The Bietigheimers had also agreed to postpone the game against Munich scheduled for Friday, but it should take place on the second attempt on Tuesday.

Not everyone in the league likes that.

Since this season there has been relegation again.

For the teams in the table basement, every point can count that would be much more difficult to get against a full Munich squad.

The topic of promotion and relegation is viewed critically in some places anyway.

"The descent does not bring German ice hockey a fart forward," quoted the Hockeyweb portal as saying the Nuremberg sports director Stefan Ustorf.

Due to the new scheduling problems, the number of critics should increase - and the renewed suspension will be debated.

But does the second division go along with it?

If Frankfurt becomes champion in the lower house and exercises its right of promotion, the DEL 2 would lose a second top team with no “equivalent” from the first division and thus lose its attractiveness.

So there is a lot to talk about, Corona is far from over for the DEL.

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