Today, the ECHL became the first professional sports league to cancel their remaining season due to the coronavirus pandemic. The league had previously suspended play on March 12.
The ECHL Board of Governors approved the cancelation Saturday according to a news article on the ECHL’s official website that served as a statement from ECHL Commissioner Ryan Crelin.
The decision to cancel the season came from the fact that they could not guarantee the safety of players, staff and the fans. As Crelin said: “Our game and our product are base 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.”
That passage in the article indicates that the league must have contemplated playing in front of empty arenas but felt it would not be feasible. That is pure speculation on my part, however.
Crelin continued: “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.”
The league announced that (should the pandemic clear by then) they will be playing a 2020-21 season.
This cancelation, as Crelin admitted, comes at a difficult time for the players. The playoffs were approaching and that is what hockey players in any league train all year for: the chance to win a championship. That has been denied them this year, but it is for the benefit of everyone associated with the league’s health.
The decision to cancel the season was made with in conjunction with “local authorities across the continent” according to Crelin.
The Newfoundland Growlers, Reading Royals, South Carolina Stingrays, Florida Everblades, Cincinnati Cyclones and Allen Americans has already clinched playoff positions at the time of the cancelation.
The Adirondack Thunder, the Devils’ affiliate, finished fifth in the North Division with a 22-28-8-5 record with 57 points. They were out of a playoff spot for the time being after 63 games played.
This is a bold move by the ECHL. Should things continue to get too out of control, we could be seeing this across the board. Let’s hope things get better soon so that we have some hockey to watch come playoff time.