HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. – The SPHL on Sunday joined the growing list of collegiate and professional leagues canceling the remainder of their seasons and playoffs as a result of COVID-19.
League commissioner Doug Price gave a statement on Sunday afternoon. It comes less than 24 hours after the ECHL made its announcement to cancel their 2019-20 season.
“The decision made to cancel the remainder of the regular season and playoffs was extremely difficult. Difficult in the fact that it brings a premature end to what was shaping up to be a tremendous and potentially historic finish to the season. Two teams were tied for first place, two points separated third through sixth place, and one point separated the final four teams. We were all very excited for the last several weeks of hockey.
“But what was not difficult was knowing it was absolutely the responsible decision. It was a decision for our players, coaches, and game officials. It was a decision for our fans, team staff, and arena personnel. What we are all facing right now is bigger than the SPHL, bigger than hockey, and bigger than sports.
“With state mandates already preventing multiple teams from playing until at least May 1 and the uncertainty surrounding what additional restrictions may be forthcoming, we needed to take a step back and focus on the safety of those who make the SPHL great, from players to parking attendants. Jeopardizing even one person’s health in an attempt to continue the season is not a risk we were willing to even remotely consider. That is not who we are as a league, because we too are a league of husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters.
“To our fans, I want to thank you for your patience and understanding as we work through this unprecedented series of events. I know you are as disappointed as we are. However, the Board of Governors and I will continue to work diligently over the next few days, weeks, and months in anticipation of a return to normalcy and the start of 2020-2021 season. Please continue to support your favorite SPHL team, and when we open the arena doors again, we hope to see you there — Back cheering and booing as only hockey fans can. The greatest sports fans in the world.
Be safe and be strong.”
The premature end of the season brings heated races throughout the standings to a halt.
Prior to the season being suspended on Thursday (which preceded Sunday’s announcement), Peoria and Fayetteville were tied atop the standings. A four-way race for third was led by Huntsville, with each team within two points of each other. A quartet of clubs — Roanoke, Quad City, Birmingham and Macon — were in an intense battle for the final two President’s Cup playoff spots.
For now, however, much like other cities across the country, hockey remains on hold as Peoria is still seeking its first SPHL title and Huntsville remains the two-time defending champion.
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