In the hours following the NHL’s decision to press pause on its 2019-20 season amid the coronavirus outbreak, the ECHL was among the numerous minor professional circuits that chose to follow suit and suspend its own campaign. But mere days later, with uncertainty surrounding a timeline for the resumption of play at any level, the ECHL has called off the remainder of its season.
In a statement released late Saturday evening, ECHL commissioner Ryan Crelin said the decision to cancel the balance of the campaign did not “come lightly,” adding that this “is an emotional time for our Players, Coaches, Member Teams, Fans and Staff” given the work that has been put in by all involved throughout the season.
“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,” Crelin said of the cancellation. “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.”
The decision to cancel the campaign comes in the midst of the ECHL’s stretch run, as only two teams had more than a dozen games remaining on their calendar. If the season had continued without interruption, the campaign would have ended on April 5, with the post-season beginning shortly thereafter.
As a result of the season cancellation, the Kelly Cup will not be awarded for the first time in league history.
In his statement, Crelin expressed optimism that next season will continue as planned.
“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,” Crelin said.
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