The Komets have more time to decide if they’ll opt in or out of the coming ECHL season.
How much time is unknown.
“Is there a new deadline? I’m not sure right now,” Komets president Michael Franke said. “It’s just a very fluid situation right now.”
Citing league confidentiality restrictions, Franke declined to comment further Monday night.
Fans of the team have been in limbo since Oct. 9, when the ECHL announced that 13 teams would begin play Dec. 11 and the remaining undecided teams, including Fort Wayne, would target a Jan. 15 start if they could make it safe and financially worthwhile.
The ECHL gave the undecided teams until Monday to opt in or out, but the worsening trend of the coronavirus pandemic made that deadline problematic for Fort Wayne. Public gatherings in Allen County are limited to 100 people and the Komets and Memorial Coliseum cannot apply for greater capacity from the Allen County Department of Health until, at most, 30 days before their games would begin.
The Department of Health approved 3,830 fans for Komets games in October, when COVID-19 seemed more controlled, but even that number was well below the approximately 4,500 fans the Komets felt they needed to break even financially.
The Komets have played annually since 1952-53, though they haven’t skated since March 11, when they had 10 games remaining in the regular season and led the ECHL’s 26 teams with average attendance of 8,090.
Joining the Komets as undecided teams are Idaho and fellow Central Division teams Toledo, Cincinnati and Kalamazoo. Some of those teams have been pushing to start in February, to buy more time for the pandemic to settle down, for a vaccine to become available and, perhaps, for more stimulus money to offset any financial losses.
Of the ECHL’s 26 member teams, eight have opted out: Atlanta, Norfolk and the entire North Division – Newfoundland, Reading, Brampton, Maine, Adirondack and Worcester.
The teams set to start Dec. 11, including Indy and Wheeling, division rivals of Fort Wayne, are scheduled to play full 72-game seasons. If a Jan. 15 start happens for the Komets – which seems increasingly unlikely – they would aim for a 62-game season.
Most ECHL teams, including the Komets, are considered small businesses. And the Komets get no share of parking or concessions revenue from the Coliseum. The Komets also don’t profit off suite tickets, though those spectators, of course, count against the Department of Health’s capacity restrictions.
Fort Wayne’s roster for this season seems loaded – they have 21 players signed, highlighted by Shawn Szydlowski, Marco Roy, Brett McKenzie, Zach Pochiro, A.J. Jenks and Anthony Petruzzelli – and they have an affiliation agreement with the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights.