FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) -- The Fort Wayne Komets announced Friday in conjunction with the ECHL to start its season on Jan. 15, 2021.
The coronavirus pandemic forced the ECHL to delay the start of the 2020-2021 season with hopes that all teams would be able to participate by December.
However, based on current pandemic hot spots throughout the nation, the ECHL will now play a split season with 13 teams beginning play on Dec.11.
This is based on jurisdiction allowances that permit teams to start play in front of fans at a reduced capacity.
The Komets currently do not have the ability to start in December due to current health department guidelines, but the team is confident that some of these restrictions will be relaxed in time to start the 69th season of Komets hockey in January.
“The Komets cannot start in December based on capacity restrictions for the Coliseum and for the safety of our tremendous fans, staff, players and coaches. We want to make sure that we are doing the right thing when it comes down to having Komets fans in the Jungle,” said Komets President Michael Franke. “The teams that have chosen to play in December have different building leases and health department requirements that allow them to play.”
The teams starting in December: Allen, Florida, Greenville, Indy, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Orlando, Rapid City, South Carolina, Tulsa, Utah, Wheeling and Wichita.
“Indy has a different lease situation than we do in Fort Wayne. They are able to play at a larger percentage of total capacity than we are at this moment. Our business model in Fort Wayne is set up for ticket revenue and sponsorships since we do not get a portion of concessions and parking, so their economic model is different than ours,” Franke added.
Komets rivals Toledo, Kalamazoo and Cincinnati have also targeted Jan. 15 as their start date.
“Our goal is to work closely with the Coliseum and our local health officials to create an environment that is committed to the safety of our fans. When play commences all of the necessary precautions will be in place to put our fans at ease when they enter the building,” Franke also said. “We will need patience from our great fans as there will be reduced capacity when play starts in January. Fans might sit in different seat locations for a while until this awful pandemic is controlled. We are hopeful that everyone will understand this and help us bring back Komet hockey safely.”
A new schedule will be released soon for those teams starting play in December.
A complete league schedule for all teams will be available in early December.
The teams starting in January will play a shortened 62 game schedule with the final day of the regular season set for June 5th.
“This delay to start playing in mid-January will give us more time for restrictions to be relaxed. It’s been frustrating and disappointing for our staff, players and fans, but safety is our primary concern,” said Komets General Manager David Franke. “We feel we have a great group of players assembled at this point. More will be added to start training camp sometime between Christmas and New Year’s Day. For the 2021 season let’s all stay positive and hope that science will free us from the grips of this world pandemic.”
The coaching staff will continue to prepare to start the season in January.
The Komets currently have 20 players signed for the upcoming season.