While the Tampa Bay Lightning continue their quest for the Stanley Cup in the bubble, their ECHL counterparts in Central Florida are in the midst of building their roster for the 2020-21 season. Since the last update, the Orlando Solar Bears have added four new players, including one half of the goaltending tandem. However, the team will have to wait (at least) two months before taking the ice at Amway Center.
On Wednesday, the ECHL announced that the start of the 2020-21 regular season has been pushed back from October 16th to December 4th, following the AHL and the SPHL.
The league plans to play all 72 regular season games. This best case scenario would likely push the end of the regular season from early April to sometime in June, when a Kelly Cup champion is normally crowned.
One important note that could put this plan in jeopardy: The ECHL needs fans in the seats in order to be successful financially. The league has teams in current virus hotspots such as Florida (the Solar Bears, Jacksonville, and the Everblades) and Texas (Allen); teams in areas where the virus is mostly under control (Adirondack in New York, Worcester in Massachusetts, Reading in Pennsylvania); and two Canadian teams in Brampton and St. John’s, where travel from the United States has been shut down. The actions towards stopping the spread of the coronavirus over the next few months could determine if the season can even begin in December.
An updated schedule will be released at a later date.
Meanwhile, Orlando has continued to keep busy with building their 2020-21 roster, bringing back three more players from last year’s team and picking up a rookie goaltender.
Forward Johno May returns for his first full season in Orlando after coming over in a trade with Greenville in mid-December. The Minnesota native had 14 goals and 15 assists in 38 games for the Solar Bears, and made an impact—the team was 14-7-1-0 in games where he registered at least one point.
Another forward returning to the team is Rich Boyd, who will be starting his second professional season. In his rookie campaign, the native of Fort Myers appeared in 38 games, with 8 goals and 4 assists.
The third returnee is forward Tad Kozun, who joined Orlando via a trade with Kansas City just prior to the season shutdown in March. He scored one goal in two appearances for the Solar Bears, and finished with 13 goals and 13 assists overall in 2019-20.
The newest member of the Solar Bears is rookie goaltender Michael Lackey, who comes to Florida by way of Providence College. In his lone season with the Friars, the native of Washington DC appeared in 34 games, with a 16-12-6 record, 2.18 GAA, and a .922 save percentage. Before Providence, he played three seasons at Harvard, with a combined 19 wins in 42 appearances.
How would @slackeylackey12 characterize his style? The goalie offers some insight to what fans can expect this fall in the latest episode of Bear Tracks:— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) July 30, 2020
☁️: https://t.co/ND8iu0hmAx pic.twitter.com/PXXSaz2YR7
Overall, the Solar Bears have signed a total of 11 players—one goaltender, five forwards, and five defensemen—the most signings of any ECHL team.