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Mavericks, ECHL plan Dec. 11 return

By Bill Althaus

The Kansas City Mavericks will begin the 2020-2021 ECHL season Dec. 11 under a split-season format.

The season had been scheduled to start next Friday, Oct. 16, but was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kansas City Mavericks

“There are still a lot of questions that need to be answered but I am so thrilled to let our fans know that we will be playing hockey this season,” Brent Thiessen, Mavericks president and general manager and the ECHL Chairman of the Board, said following Friday morning’s announcement by the ECHL.

“The past six months have been as challenging as any time in my professional career and we are all so excited to let our fans know that we will hit the ice Dec. 11.”

First-year head coach and director of player development Tad O’Had shared Thiessen’s enthusiasm.

“It’s real – and our phones have been ringing off the hook,” O’Had said Friday morning. “I can’t even tell you how many agents and players Kohl (Schultz, assistant coach) and I have talked to today.

“Brent, in his role with the league and with the Mavericks, has worked so hard to make this happen. And now, we can talk to our guys, tell them to get ready to hit the ice Dec. 11. 

“There’s now more ‘when we know, or what might happen’ it’s all real and I’ve never been this excited about the start of a season.”

Neither has new Mavericks forward Rob Bordson, who brings a wealth of experience on the ice to his new team.

“I just read about it,” Bordson said from his home in Minnesota. “Great news! It’s so exciting to know when we’re starting and I can’t wait to get to Kansas City.”

Thiessen said he knows that Mavericks fans will have many questions, and he will have the answers as soon as they are available.

“They will want to know about our schedule, how many fans will be allowed to watch our games – so many questions, and we are going to get the answers,” Thiessen said.

“We are talking to the county, the Jackson County Health Department and our building staff and we will have the answers just as soon as they are available. This is so important to our fans, we don’t want to give them a scenario that might change several times before the start of the season.”

Under the split-season guidelines, 13 teams will begin a 72-game season on Dec. 11 – Kansas City, Allen, Florida, Greenville, Indy, Jacksonville, Orlando, Rapid City, South Carolina, Tulsa, Utah, Wheeling and Wichita.

The ECHL regular season will conclude on June 6, 2021. A schedule for games from Dec. 11, 2020, through Jan. 14, 2021, will be announced in the near future.

Under the split-season scenario, league standings will be based on winning percentage during the regular season. The postseason format will be based on the eligible competing teams in the regular season and will be announced at a later date.

Additionally, remaining ECHL teams will begin their season on Jan. 15, 2021, competing in a 62-game season upon jurisdictional approval.

The Atlanta Gladiators have elected a voluntary suspension for the 2020-21 season, and plan to return to play in the 2021-22 season. That makes all Atlanta players immediate free agents for the 2020-21 season.

“We’ve talked with so many guys from around the league,” O’Had added. “Guys know what a great organization we have, and we still have a few surprises for our fans. We’re not done by any means.”

ECHL commissioner Ryan Crelin said the league wanted to bring the game back and used a process that is safe for all personnel and fans.

“The ECHL is excited to be able to confirm the beginning of the 2020-21 season by working with our local health officials and the PHPA (Professional Hockey Players Association) to develop protocols for the safe return of our players, fans, and employees,” Crelin said in a press release. “The ECHL is getting back to hockey, as we all work together to bring live entertainment back to our communities.”

PHPA director Larry Landon agreed.

“Our ECHL members have been looking forward to getting back on the ice since March 16, and providing the fans with exciting hockey in a safe environment,” Landon said in the release.