PORTLAND, Maine — As the ECHL begins to prepare for its upcoming season, it will do so without six teams. The league announced Wednesday all six teams in the North Division, including the Maine Mariners, will suspend play for the 2020-21 season.
The Adirondack Thunder, Brampton Beast, Maine Mariners, Newfoundland Growlers, Reading Royals, and Worcester Railers are set to return to the ECHL for the 2021-22 season.
“As we continue to navigate the continually changing regulations across North America, we recognize the difficult nature of this decision," ECHL Commissioner Ryan Crelin said in a press release. "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 North East.”
Adam Goldberg is the Vice President of Business Operations for the Mariners. In an interview Wednesday he said all six teams in the league were behind the ECHL's decision.
“With specifically, Maine, the indoor capacity going from 100 down to 50, with cases going up the way that they are, it obviously didn’t work in our favor and we obviously want to stay safe for our players and our fans," he added.
The league made this decision to suspend play in the North Division after looking at the growing cases in the region.
"With the uncertainties surrounding COVID-19, the increasing rates in our region, and after consulting with local officials, we did not see a clear path toward hosting fans at Mariners games. We want to thank our fans for their passion and loyalty as we continue to navigate returning to the ice. The future for this franchise is bright, and we are already making exciting plans for the 2021-22 season," Danny Briere, Vice President of Hockey Operations for the Mainers, said.
According to the terms in the ECHL/PHPA Collective Bargaining Agreement, all players in the North Division are now free agents for the 2020-21 season.
Goldberg added the organization will start planning for next year right away.
“Obviously not a fun day, not a great day but at the same time, there is a little part of optimism that we can at least look forward to.”