The ECHL has cancelled the remainder of the 2019-20 season and its playoffs, commissioner Ryan Crelin announced Saturday.
— ECHL (@ECHL) March 15, 2020
Crelin released a lengthy statement explaining the decision.
“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 favourite 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 move followed Thursday’s announcement that the ECHL had suspended play due to concerns about COVID-19.
All three major junior hockey leagues in Canada, the QMJHL, the OHL and WHL, plus the American Hockey League and NHL have also suspended play because of the COVID-19 outbreak. The ECHL is the first league in North America to announce the 2019-20 season would not finish play, but several leagues in Europe have already made similar decisions.
The 26-team ECHL includes two Canadian teams: the Brampton Beast and the Newfoundland Growlers.