The ECHL's six North Division clubs will suspend play for the 2020-21 campaign, the league announced Wednesday.
The Adirondack Thunder, Brampton Beast, Maine Mariners, Newfoundland Growlers, Reading Royals, and Worcester Railers will each sit out the season due to the ECHL's COVID-19 policy. All six teams are scheduled to return for 2021-22.
All players on the North Division clubs are now free agents.
"As we continue to navigate the continually changing regulations across North America, we recognize the difficult nature of this decision," ECHL commissioner Ryan Crelin said in a statement. "While some of our teams' host cities have allowed upcoming plans to include fans inside arenas, we unfortunately do not see the same path for these highly affected areas in the Northeast."
Here are the division's NHL affiliations:
|ECHL team||NHL club|
|Thunder||New Jersey Devils|
|Mariners||New York Rangers|
|Growlers||Toronto Maple Leafs|
|Railers||New York Islanders|
Wednesday's decision leaves 18 ECHL teams set to participate in 2020-21. The Atlanta Gladiators - who are affiliated with the Boston Bruins - and the unaffiliated Norfolk Admirals previously opted out of the campaign.
The ECHL is set to use a two-tiered system for the coming season. Thirteen teams will begin 72-game schedules on Dec. 11, while the other clubs will open 62-game slates on Jan. 15 "upon jurisdictional approval," according to ESPN's Greg Wyshynski.