The ECHL canceled its 2019-20 regular season (and playoffs) because of the coronavirus pandemic on Saturday. While the NHL chose to “pause” its season, the ECHL took this step, and others may follow.
Official ECHL statement as season, playoffs canceled
ECHL Commissioner Ryan Crelin released a statement on the 26-team league shutting down:
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.
Reported situation for ECHL players
The Athletic’s Sara Civian reports tough news for ECHL players. ECHL players’ salaries will only be paid through Monday (March 16), while they will have insurance through June 30, according to Civian.
Very sad to hear that @ECHL has gone from paused to cancelling the remainder of the season. We have many current @NHL players & coaches that cut their teeth in the ‘E.’
They have passionate fans. Also plenty of guys & gals riding buses for their shot at the @NHL #HockeyTwitter
— Kevin Weekes (@KevinWeekes) March 15, 2020
Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston indicates that things could be complicated for the AHL, as well.
In addition to @FriedgeHNIC report on ECHL cancelling its season, word around the American Hockey League is that a potential return won't mirror what happens with the NHL. Too many different variables, including travel and revenue. They're facing a big challenge.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) March 15, 2020
The ECHL may represent the beginning of North American-based hockey leagues canceling their seasons, but European leagues have also taken that step. In the case of KHL team Jokerit, they decided to pull out of the league’s playoffs.
Back on Thursday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said he hopes play could resume — eventually.
“My hope is that at some point we’ll get back to some normalcy,” Bettman said. “And that’s not just my hope for the NHL, and it’s not just my hope for all sports, it’s my hope for everything that’s going on.”
Follow this NBC News live update thread for more on the coronavirus pandemic.
- Many hockey leagues following NHL’s lead
- Uncertainty awaits as NHL puts season on ice — for now
- How grassroots hockey has been affected by COVID-19
- Where the NHL left off with 2019-20 season in limbo
- Looking at shortened and postponed NHL seasons.