On Wednesday, November 18th, the ECHL announced that its North Division teams would not participate in the upcoming season. This includes the Adirondack Thunder, Newfoundland Growlers, Brampton Beast, Worcester Railers, Reading Royals and Maine Mariners.
The North Division was among the group of teams expected to begin play on the 15th of January. The withdrawals come as a result of COVID-19 cases, which continue to spike throughout North America. The division was also facing complications due to the closed Canadian border, as Brampton and Newfoundland would have had to find places to play south of the border. This of course being the case had restrictions not been reduced or lifted by the start of their season.
ECHL commissioner Ryan Crelin addressed the withdrawals on the ECHL website.
“As we continue to navigate the continually changing regulations across North America, we recognize the difficult nature of this decision. While some of our teams’ host cities have allowed upcoming plans to include fans inside arenas, we unfortunately do not see the same path for these highly-affected areas in the Northeast.”
The ECHL is still expected to begin the first part of its season on December 11th. Fan access to games is still being evaluated and is likely to be different for every team. Players from the withdrawn teams will become free agents and be able to sign with other clubs.
The ECHL currently has 18 teams still planning to proceed with operations this season. The Atlanta Gladiators withdrew in October in conjunction with the ECHL’s season announcement.