K-Wings decide to drop the puck, shortened season starts in January

Kalamazoo Wings forward Austin Farley celebrates a goal against Kansas City.JPG
Kalamazoo Wings forward Austin Farley celebrates a goal against Kansas City in this file photo from February 2010. (WWMT/File)

The Kalamazoo Wings decided to play, but will start in January instead of the previously announced Oct. 17.

Adopting a shortened, 62-game season, the K-Wings announced Friday that they will begin play in January, with a number of protocols in place to safeguard players, fans and staff against the spread of coronavirus disease 2019. Among those protocols are changes in seating and a requirement for fans to wear masks.

"First, the safety of our fans, staff and players is first and foremost,” said Toni Will, the K-wings governor and director of business operations.

“The additional time allows for the state of Michigan to continue to make positive progress in the reduction of positive COVID-19 cases," Will said in a written announcement released Friday. "We have been working with local health officials and following CDC protocol to accomplish this very important task for the coming season. Additionally, the timeline looks to align better with our opponents in the Central Division. Another factor considered was our affiliates and the potential commencement schedule of the Utica Comets and the Vancouver Canucks.”

The new 2020-21 season will include 31 home games and 31 road games. While some other ECHL teams are starting play in December, the league said it will use a team's winning percentage to determine playoff spots.

The K-Wings' 2019-20 season was cut short. Just days after COVID-19 was first confirmed in Michigan, the league's board announced, Saturday, March 14, 2020, that they had stopped all play.

ECHL Commissioner Ryan Crelin said at the time that concerns over the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 contributed to the decision.

In a statement released by the K-Wings on Friday, the league's Board of Directors said 13 teams will being their seasons in December; 12 of the remaining teams will start in January. The league has 26 teams, and one voluntarily suspended operations.

The K-Wings decided on January, in part to provide time for adjustments required by social distancing rules.

“The staff will be diligently working on the plan to safely accommodate our fans by creating seating arrangements that allow for six feet of social distancing, hand sanitizing stations and cashless purchasing, to name a few,” Will said in the announcement. “Additionally, per the executive orders, masks will be required for all patrons in attendance, starting with the home opener in January 2021."