At least one of Tampa Bay’s farm teams has a schedule. Well, sort of.
After revealing their two-part Return to Play plan last week, the ECHL announced the first set of games scheduled for the 2020-2021 season on Thursday. For the thirteen squads that plan to start in mid-December, including the Orlando Solar Bears, the countdown to the regular season begins now.
Orlando will open on Saturday, December 12th, in Estero against the Florida Everblades, a team the Solar Bears will face 5 times in their first 10 games. After a three-game road trip to start the season, Orlando will return to the Amway Center for their home opener on Tuesday, December 29th against Jacksonville, kicking off a four-game home stand.
Here is the 10-game slate through mid-January:
December 12—at Florida
18 & 19—at Wheeling
January 2 & 3—vs. Florida
6—vs. South Carolina
The remaining 62 games on the schedule—including the reduced full slate for the remaining 12 ECHL teams—which dwindled to 11 after the Norfolk Admirals chose to opt out on Tuesday—will be released at a later date, and will be contingent on whether those teams will be able to play in their home arenas in front of fans based on current virus restrictions, which vary by state or Canadian province.
Interstate travel could also play a factor, with several state governments requiring a quarantine period based on the current caseload, and the U.S.-Canadian border remaining closed indefinitely (although there are talks that rapid testing at airports may allow travelers to enter without having to quarantine).
There are a lot of unknown variables that will affect whether a season happens or not, but at least there is a timetable to hopefully look forward to.