Former Elite League winning coach Paul Adey has warned a shortage of places for players affected by the shutdown of the 2020/21 season could result in many of them retiring from the sport prematurely.

With the EIHL rumoured to be announcing the cancellation of the new season at a meeting tomorrow, an exodus has already begun with imports and British players finding spaces on rosters elsewhere in Europe.

Adey, a former GB international who coached Belfast Giants to the title in 2014, believes it could lead to players who are unable to find teams retiring to look outside the sport for employment.

“It’s difficult times and we’re all experiencing something none of us have ever had to deal with and right now, I’d hate to be a player or a coach, with all the uncertainty going on,” said Adey, who is now a pundit on Freesports and Premier Sports. “There’s not a lot of jobs out there and players are looking towards leagues that are starting soon.

“They’re putting themselves out there in the hope they can get picked up, but there aren’t a lot of jobs out there and I fear you’re going to see a lot of players retire, either any time now or in a year’s time when they’ve maybe got a job and they’re earning more money.

“They may have a chance to go back 12 months from now and question if going back is right for them, [they] may well be enjoying life away from hockey. That’s the reality of the situation a lot of players find themselves in right now.”

Glasgow Clan have seen their team from last season decimated by player exits, with seven retiring and six moving elsewhere, including Rasmus Bjerrum who joined his hometown team in Denmark, Esbjerg Energy over the weekend.

Across the Elite League, signing news has been threadbare and with more and more players leaving, it would suggest the league will decide to cancel the new campaign, which had been pencilled in to begin at the start of December.

Adey retains a flicker of hope that something can be salvaged of 2020/21, but concedes decisions at governmental level will play a huge part. However, he is optimistic the EIHL can recover from an enforced break.

“Personally, I’d love to see a season at some point," he said. "If there is going to be one, the Elite League will probably push it back as far as they can. I think a December start is still possible depending on how things go, of course.

“The governments around the UK will have a massive say on this naturally and are tracking everything to know and advise what we can and can’t do and making the decisions they are. We just have to take that in our stride.

“I would love to see some action, but it’s not going to be easy. I wouldn’t even say it’s a 50-50 split on whether we’ll see any games. I would say it’s more 40-60, but we’ll see what happens, and keep our fingers crossed.

“Looking long term, things will recover in time and there’s always going to be players coming through from youth systems or lower leagues getting the chance to step up as well guys coming here and using the UK as a stepping stone for a better contract in Europe.

“It’ll be a long road back for the Elite League, but I reckon it’ll get there in the end.”