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ECHL season delayed by two months; Will begin Dec. 4

WHEELING – The Wheeling Nailers know when their 2020-21 season is going to begin.

The ECHL announced Wednesday morning that it intends to play a full 72-game schedule, but the season will be delayed in its opening by nearly two months and begin on Dec. 4.

The league had been holding meetings virtually with its teams basically since the season was halted in March because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“The main thing discussed at (Tuesday’s) meeting was (the return to play date),” Wheeling Nailers alternate governor Brian Komorowski said.

According to Komorowski, that’s in the neighborhood of dates that the NHL and AHL plan to implement as they both begin planning for next season.

“Both are saying that’s the target, but I am not sure it’s a hard, fast deadline,” Komorowski said.

Obviously, plenty of unknowns remain before any hockey will be played at WesBanco Arena or across league ice. Komorowski – like most others involved with sports – is “cautiously optimistic” about the upcoming season.

“We simply have to wait and see what’s going to happen moving forward with the pandemic,” Komorowski said.

With the season set to begin in December, the Nailers will tentatively begin training camp in the middle portion of November.

“Everything would be basically on the same timeline, but it would just be pushed back two months,” Komorowski explained. ”

The Nailers are moving forward as if there will be a complete season. Komorowski said they’re working on ticket plans and normal off-season aspects like that.

Ticket sales are one of the major aspects that will need to be worked out because – quite simply – minor league sports can not play without fans.

Each team in the league has a schedule and some of the dates are locked in, but the early portion of the schedule will – in essence – shift to the latter portion of the schedule. Those dates are being sought, but they’re tougher to come by.

“There just aren’t as many (available) dates because of all of the postponements across the country of different events,” Komorowski said. “Everyone is planning for hockey and we’re working as diligently as we can.”

The NHL is currently playing in a ‘bubble’ in Toronto and Edmonton. That is allowing the 2019-20 season to get finished. Playing in a bubble doesn’t seem feasible for the Nailers or any other minor league organization, regardless of sport.

“We’ll definitely not be (playing) in a bubble, so some of the things we have to look at is what happens is if a player or coach gets it or any of the different scenarios,” Komorowski said.

The ECHL has forced a COVID committee that has been working on safety protocols for the players and coaches whenever the clearance is given, too.

“Like anything else, plans can change on a dime, unfortunately,” Komorowski said. “We just have to wait and see how it plays out and if there’s a vaccine will be a big part of it, too.”

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