An announcement released by the Evansville Thunderbolts on Tuesday says the team won't be taking to the ice this season.
The Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) says the 2020-2021 season will only be comprised of five teams and feature a 42-game regular-season schedule.
On Saturday, Dec. 26, the SPHL is set to drop the puck for the 2020-2021 season with the Birmingham Bulls, Huntsville Havoc, Knoxville Ice Bears, Macon Mayhem and Pensacola Ice Flyers set to play the abbreviated schedule.
Evansville Thunderbolts President Scott Schoenike says the decision was one of the hardest he's ever had to make, and that he feels like the team's time and efforts are best dedicated towards the upcoming 2021-2020 season.
“It was not one single COVID-19 pandemic factor that determined the decision but a combination of COVID-19 restrictions, safety of players, and projected financial increases of travel, testing, extra apartments, and other precautionary expenses," Schoenike said.
“We are fully committed to the Thunderbolts coming back for the 2021-2022 season. Coach Bes will be coming back to Evansville after January 1, 2021, to work on sponsorships, season tickets, and be in the community," Schoenike continued. "Even though he will not be coaching a team this season he will as busy spending the season in Evansville with our fans and partners.”
“For those who have already purchased Season Tickets or purchased Sponsorships, I want to thank all of you for your continued support and we will start reaching out to you and working through each account,” Schoenike concluded
“This is a tough day for the SPHL, particularly because the circumstances that forced these decisions are out of our control,” said SPHL Commissioner Doug Price.
“When we were forced to suspend play back in March, we immediately turned our focus to the upcoming 2020-2021 season. We waited as long as possible for things to improve so that all of our teams could play this season, but I don't think any of us imagined we would still be facing these restrictions seven months later.”