With it increasingly looking like we won’t see a resumption of normalcy until May as the coronavirus takes its course, the ECHL and SPHL have canceled the rest of the 2019-2020 season, including the playoffs.
The ECHL regular season was slated to end April 5, with the playoffs set to start April 8. (The AHL season, by the way. is set to end April 11.) Here’s the statement from ECHL Commissioner Ryan Crelin:
The decision by the ECHL to cancel the remainder of the 2019-20 Season does not come lightly, as this is an emotional time for our Players, Coaches, Member Teams, Fans and Staff. At this point in the Season, there has been immense dedication and countless hours committed in moving towards what is traditionally the most exciting part of the hockey year.
With that said however, as each passing day raises additional concerns for the safety of those in the ECHL community and as we take precautionary measures in conjunction with our local authorities across the continent to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, it has become apparent that this is the prudent decision. Our game and our product are based on our Fans and their ability to cheer on their favorite ECHL team and Players at one of our many facilities around the continent. Without that social environment and game atmosphere, the ECHL simply isn’t the same.
On behalf of the ECHL and our Board of Governors, we appreciate the Professional Hockey Players’ Association for their assistance during this unprecedented time and working as partners in hockey to reach this decision for the best interest of the ECHL and its Players. This decision allows our Players the opportunity to return to their homes and removes the uncertainty that currently exists.
While we are hopeful that this period ceases and an opportunity to return to normalcy for the hockey calendar presents itself, in the interim, we ask all Fans, Players, Coaches, Officials, and Staff to continue to abide by the measures put in place by their local authorities and follow precautionary protocols for their safety, as we will begin preparations for the 2020-21 ECHL Hockey Season.
The SPHL has followed suit (no surprise; the regular-season was set to end April 5), per this message from Commissioner Doug Price:
The decision made to cancel the remainder of the regular season and playoffs was extremely difficult. Difficult in the fact that it brings a premature end to what was shaping up to be a tremendous and potentially historic finish to the season. Two teams were tied for first place, two points separated third through sixth place and one point separated the final four teams. We were all very excited for the last several weeks of hockey.
But what was not difficult was knowing it was absolutely the responsible decision. It was a decision for our players, coaches and game officials. It was a decision for our fans, team staff and arena personnel. What we are all facing right now is bigger than the SPHL, bigger than hockey and bigger than sports.
With state mandates already preventing multiple teams from playing until at least May 1 and the uncertainty surrounding what additional restrictions may be forthcoming, we needed to take a step back and focus on the safety of those who make the SPHL great, from players to parking attendants. Jeopardizing even one person’s health in an attempt to continue the season is not a risk we were willing to even remotely consider. That is not who we are as a league, because we too are a league of husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters.
To our fans, I want to thank you for your patience and understanding as we work through this unprecedented series of events. I know you are as disappointed as we are. However, the Board of Governors and I will continue to work diligently over the next few days, weeks and months in anticipation of a return to normalcy and the start of 2020-2021 season. Please continue to support your favorite SPHL team and when we open the arena doors again, we hope to see you there. Back cheering and booing as only hockey fans can. The greatest sports fans in the world.
Be safe and be strong.
The coronavirus pandemic has led to a loss of event dates at arenas not just because of the NBA halting play, but also because of suspensions for other sports leagues and entertainment such as concert tours. With the situation very much evolving and the entities that have suspended operations, including the NBA, facing an uncertain timeline for their relaunch, the issue of arena employee compensation is one that will likely continue to be a subject of discussion.
With hourly news about the spread of the coronavirus impacting the sports-business and facilities industries, it’s more important than ever to stay up with the latest news in the venues industry. That’s why we’re launching a new Venues Digest newsletter focusing on coronavirus information across the ballparks, arenas, stadiums, theater and performing-arts worlds. For now it will appear daily, and for now it will be free of charge. Sign up here.
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