|Tanner Jago (Credit: Lisa Jordan/Idaho Steelheads)|
The Idaho Steelheads announced yesterday that they will not be playing this season. The Steelheads were set to start their season in the second wave of ECHL starts coming in January. Cincinnati and Kalamazoo also opted out in the same announcement from the league.
In the press release, Steelheads president Eric Trapp noted it was not an easy call, "This was a difficult decision to come to as we wanted to be able to play this season but because of the continued increase of Covid-19 in the Treasure Valley and United States, we felt our best option was to start preparing for a season in the Fall of 2021."
Idaho's home arena in Boise is currently affected by multiple city/county orders that limit in-person activities to no more than ten people. Ten, of course, isn't even enough people to play even one second of even-strength hockey. Therefore, the team had no true decision to make. Further, the team's financials simply don't work without fans in the stands, so the entire model of an empty arena was completely untenable even if there was a way to get a waiver for team activities.
As to the planned ECHL roster, it is unclear now what happens to those players. Trapp told KTVB television's Will Hall that the PHPA CBA will govern that decision and they could become free agents for the rest of the league to sign.
The Steelheads have been one of the most stable ECHL programs since their entrance into the league, and there seems to be little doubt of their return in 2021. However, it remains to be seen if all ECHL teams electing for voluntary suspension will return based on the financials.
While there is no ownership connection between the Steelheads and the Dallas or Texas Stars, the fact that such a stout organization as Idaho is having to put the kibosh on their entire season is not a promising one for minor league hockey overall. This week is eight weeks out from the current February start date prediction of the AHL. It remains to be seen if the AHL will return based on this timeline.