The Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) today announced that the upcoming 2020-2021 regular season will begin the day after Christmas with five teams playing a 42-game schedule.
The SPHL season will begin on Saturday, December 26th, with only the Birmingham Bulls, Huntsville Havoc, Macon Mayhem, Pensacola Ice Flyers, and our own Knoxville Ice Bears set to take the ice for the truncated season.
The Knoxville Ice Bears said in a statement Tuesday that they are “working with ASM and the City of Knoxville on a viable seating plan to maximize capacity while accounting for safety and social distancing requirements.”
Those plans will be released to the public once they are finalized.
Due to state and local restrictions related to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic that limit their ability to host spectators and the projected economic impacts to those teams, the Evansville Thunderbolts, Fayetteville Marksmen, Peoria Rivermen, Quad City Storm, and Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs will “sit out the upcoming season and prepare to return for the 2021-2022 campaign,” according to the SPHL statement.
All players named to a protected list or signed to a training camp tryout will become free agents, however, the five teams not playing will be able to retain the rights to their protected list players for the 2021-2022 season.
“This is a tough day for the SPHL, particularly because the circumstances that forced these decisions are out of our control,” said SPHL Commissioner Doug Price. “When we were forced to suspend playback in March, we immediately turned our focus to the upcoming 2020-2021 season. We waited as long as possible for things to improve so that all of our teams could play this season, but I don’t think any of us imagined we would still be facing these restrictions seven months later.”
“Between the delayed start and the numerous canceled events also booking replacement dates in 2021, there just was not enough time nor availability to have a full 56-game schedule without creating additional hardships for the five teams attempting to play this season,” added Price.
Additional information on the 2020-2021 season, including schedules and a playoff format, will be announced in the near future.