Recently Allen marked the sixth anniversary of the Americans joining the ECHL along with six other teams (Brampton, Indy, Missouri, Quad City, Tulsa and Wichita) from the folding Central Hockey League. It has been quite a ride for Allen from winning the Kelly Cup their first two years in the ECHL to having the worst record in the league in 2018-19. In 2019-20 the Americans rebounded to be one of the best teams in the ECHL before the season was canceled in March because of COVID 19. Recently the ECHL announced play would begin again on December 11. The upcoming season will not be normal by any means. I am sure most of you have read the ECHL press release but it is worth noting some of the provisions and what they might mean:
– 13 of the 26 ECHL teams are scheduled to begin play December 11 completing a 72 game regular season on June 6, 2021. Allen, along with Florida, Greenville, Indy, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Orlando, Rapid City, South Carolina, Tulsa, Utah, Wheeling and Wichita are on the 72 game plan.
– The remaining teams, with the exception of Atlanta and Norfolk who will not play in 2020-21, will tentatively start their season on January 15, 2021 and play 62 games. Norfolk announced today they were not playing in 2020-21 under the ECHL COVID-19 Voluntary Suspension Policy. Here is a story with the details of why Norfolk isn’t playing: https://www.pilotonline.com/sports/norfolk-admirals/vp-sp-norfolk-admirals-20201020-bs3ud7ssbnc4ffa7slbkyllrmu-story.html
– Standings will be based on winning percentage, not points earned.
– It should be noted the plan as laid out in the ECHL/PHPA press release is a best case scenario and subject to whatever jurisdictional rules are in place when play commences for each team. There is little doubt, especially with predictions there will be a fall/winter surge in COVID 19 cases bigger than the surges last spring and again this summer, the rules will change in many places. It is hard to believe more teams won’t end up suspending play for the 2020-21 season.
– The biggest issue for each team is how many fans will be allowed in their arena given the city, county and state rules on capacity when play commences. ECHL arena capacities vary from under 5000 to over 17,000 and current local rules on capacity percentage allowed vary dramatically. If you have a 25% capacity rule with a 5000 arena capacity a team would be limited to 1250 fans which is not viable. Here is a breakdown of arena capacities for the 26 ECHL teams:
4794-5800: 8 teams
6200-8700: 12 teams
10200+: 6 teams
The average ECHL attendance per game in 2019-20 varied from 2267 (Wheeling) to 8090 (Fort Wayne). If a team has a low average attendance and/or a big arena the capacity restrictions will not have a big impact. However, teams with a big average attendance and/or small arenas will have big issues with capacity restrictions. Some teams will not be able to accommodate all of their season ticket holders under current restrictions. With some localities limiting indoor activities to as low as 250 and some at no indoor activities at all, you can see there will be problems in some locations if rules don’t change. Canada still does not allow Americans to travel to their country without a 14 day quarantine. These border crossing restrictions for non-essential travel, first announced in March, were recently extended until November 21. Another potential problem for the two Canadian ECHL teams if the rules don’t change.
– The Allen Americans are one of the lucky 13 teams scheduled to begin play in December but it will be anything but normal at the Allen Event Center (AEC). In talking to team President Mike Waddell the capacity will be just over 2100 per game to make sure everyone is socially distanced. If you have season tickets you should have received an email with all of the key information on how your account will be handled for the upcoming season and how seat selection will take place. The process requires action on your part and is much different than in the past for those that have always used paper tickets rather than digital tickets. Here are the details: https://allenamericans.com/news/press-release/key-information-for-allen-americans-ticket-members/
– Allen’s first part of what is being called a split season entails 10 games (five home, five away) which start on December 12 on the road in Tulsa and end on the road in Kansas City on January 10. The five home games will be all in a row on December 18,19,26,27 and 31. Here is a breakdown of the 10 games which will be against four Mountain Division rivals:
Tulsa – (1 home, 2 away), the Americans were 7-3-0-0 against the Oilers last season
Rapid City – (2 home, 0 away), the Americans were 6-2-0-0 against the Rush last season
Wichita – (1 home, 2 away), the Americans were 8-1-3-0 against the Thunder last season
Kansas City – (0 home, 2 away), the Americans were 4-3-0-0 against the Mavericks last season
– Here is the current roster which is comprised of 10 forwards, five defensemen and two goalies. For the skaters, I have included each player’s combined point totals from last season including all teams and all leagues.
Olivier Archambault – 54 points (18G, 36A), 47 games (ECHL)
Spencer Asuchak – 32 points (7G, 25A), 47 games (ECHL)
Jared Bethune – 18 points (9G, 9A), 27 games (USports)
Corey Durocher – 25 points (9G, 16A), 50 games, (ECHL)
Zane Franklin – 91 points (29G, 62A), 63 games, (WHL)
Colton Heffley – 18 points (9G, 9A), 37 games (USports, ECHL)
Josh Lammon – 27 points (8G, 19A), 54 games, (ECHL)
Braylon Shmyr – 16 points (7G, 9A), 34 games, (ECHL, EIHL)
Jared VanWormer – 37 points, (22G, 15A), 60 games, ECHL, AHL)
Patrick Watling – 34 points, (10G, 24A), 30 games, (USports)
Ben Carroll – 24 points (4G, 20A), 30 games (USports, ECHL)
Cody Corbett – 12 points (4G, 8A), 48 games, (ECHL, AHL)
Cole Fraser – 8 points (4G, 4A), 36 games, (ECHL)
Nolan Kneen – 40 points (12G, 28A), 61games, (WHL)
Les Lancaster – 28 points (5G, 23A), 43 games, (ECHL, AHL)
Chris Nell – played for three ECHL teams last season, mostly with Atlanta. In 24 games with the Gladiators, Nell had a GAA of 3.56 and save percentage of .893.
C.J. Motte – Allen announced the signing of Motte today. He was signed to play for Coventry in the top league in Great Britain but the league suspended play for the 2020-21 season. Motte finished the 2019-20 season with Coventry after starting the season in Austria and was statistically the best goalie in the EIHL over the 24 games he played with a GAA of 2.52 and save percentage of .927. The year Motte played in Allen (2018-19) he was #7 in the league in minutes played (2457) but #4 in saves (1485). Motte did great work with a .910 save percentage on the worst team in the ECHL. He should enjoy the 2020-21 season much more. Here is the Allen Americans press release on Motte’s signing: https://allenamericans.com/news/press-release/goalie-cj-motte-returns-to-allen-after-a-season-in-europe/
– It talking to coach Martinson there is still uncertainty on when AHL contracted players will be assigned to Allen and how many. There are many players that were holding out for AHL deals now looking for ECHL deals. Look for a couple of those announcements soon from the Americans.
– While the focus is on the schedule and seating, the Allen staff has so many details to work out before games begin. Safety for fans and players will require significant changes for everyone. Flexibility and patience will be necessary by all involved. Clearly the player interactions with fans and the community will have to change. How much of a “bubble” will be employed in where players live, work and play? As someone who covers the team every day, everything from the press box to the locker room to the coach’s office will most likely be off limits. Hard to see fans getting close to the players as they enter or leave the ice.
– Many European leagues have started play but the rules differ a lot. A few examples on attendance limits as reported by eurohockeyclubs.com.
Austria – 1000 maximum
Belarus – 100%
Denmark – 375 maximum
Finland – 40%-60% capacity
Norway – 200 maximum
Poland – No attendance
Sweden – 50 maximum
Great Britain has suspended play for 2020-21 and Germany has delayed their start until at least December at 20% capacity.
– If you grew up in Minnesota as I did and were a sports fan you never missed the column Sid Hartman wrote for the Minneapolis Star and Tribune. Sid died this week at age 100 after writing his column since 1944, the final one appeared in the paper the day he died (Sunday). After reading Sid’s column my entire lifetime he has had more impact on my writing style than anyone else. He was often described as strong on reporting, not on writing. And yes I have a Sid Hartman bobble head next to my Steve Martinson bobble head.
– Sid’s loss was a big one for a kid that grew up loving Minnesota sports but then to have legendary NHL broadcaster Doc Emrick announce his retirement was another shocker. Here is a story that captures the career of Emrick and explains why he is so good at his craft: https://apnews.com/article/sports-nhl-hockey-stanley-cup-finals-mike-emrick-1e48a3179967fc36ee5049a63b0ca202
DID YOU KNOW: In Allen’s first ECHL season (2014-15) the Americans accumulated 106 points on a record of 48-14-6-4 to win their division over Rapid City and Quad City by a sizeable 25 points. Allen went on to win the Kelly Cup. The 106 regular season points is the franchise record for points in the regular season.