WATERTOWN — The Federal Prospects Hockey League announced Thursday that it will be attempting once again to have a season, but this time without the Watertown Wolves.
In a press release, the league said it is unveiling a new plan to restart the regular season as it will attempt to open the campaign next Friday with four teams — the Elmira Enforcers, Port Huron Prowlers, Carolina Thunderbirds and Columbus River Dragons.
The Wolves, who announced Wednesday that the team was “unlikely” to play this season, will now definitely wait for next season to hit the ice.
“Yes, we will sit out this season unless something remarkable happens,” Wolves majority owner Andreas Johansson said Thursday.
Earlier, Watertown and Elmira did attempt to have a season. With the two teams the only two with an active league schedule at the time, they both played three preseason games on Jan. 29-31.
Then with the Wolves and Enforcers ready to open the season on Feb. 3 in Watertown, the Wolves were awarded a win by forfeit after a pregame and off-ice altercation between several players from the two teams.
The FPHL suspended play as it launched an investigation into the pregame incident.
Wolves management made it clear Wednesday why it had chosen to not compete any further this season.
Johansson backed this up by commenting on Thursday, “That is why we sent out our release, to explain and elaborate on why we won’t take the ice at this time — until such a time when we are confident that COVID protocols will be met, and enforced upon teams by the league, we will be sitting out.”
Another issue for the Wolves has been looking ahead to the availability of ice time at Watertown Municipal Arena come the spring.
“We are also in a situation where time is working against us — most other teams are able to play well into the summer, while ice availability in Watertown does not go past the middle of April, which means we would likely be in a situation where we will be unable to complete our obligation to finish the full season,” Wolves management said in a release. “This was the primary reason behind our decision to commence play in early February, rather than try to wait for other organizations to be able to join.”
As a sign of the current situation with Watertown, three Wolves players, including captain Fred Hein and fellow forwards Lane King and Josh Koepplinger, have all been loaned to the Carolina Thunderbirds.
The FPHL’s regular season will likely comprise of a different number of games per team, with a minimum of 16 games played required to claim a regular-season title, with this being applied to any team joining the season after Feb. 19.
“We are extremely happy to report that some meaningful FPHL hockey will be played this season” FPHL commissioner Don Kirnan said in the release. “Every team is working hard with its local officials to be able to play this season in a safe and responsible manner. These things are very fluid and often out of the team’s control.”
According to the plan, the regular season will conclude April 18, with the playoffs to be held at a site or sites to be determined later in April.
“Due to the unusual nature of the season, the Commissioner’s Cup will not be awarded at the end of the postseason tournament and instead a new trophy/award will be given to the winners of the end-of-season tournament,” the release continued.
The league has yet to release a regular-season schedule between the four teams, although Elmira said on its team Facebook page that it would be hosting Port Huron next Friday to open the season.
“The FPHL and its member teams plan to release a full playing schedule soon,” the release added.
Johansson said last week that some Wolves players had already gone home and added on Tuesday: “We are giving guys who can go elsewhere and play the opportunity to do so.”
Along with the Wolves, the Danville Dashers and Danbury Hat Tricks teams remain on pause while the Delaware Thunder last fall opted out of competing in a season.
“The FPHL’s remaining member teams may join the season when they receive the necessary clearance from relevant officials at the State and local level on procedure, protocol, and arena availability,” the league added in the release.
Previously, the Wolves have missed playing in the regular season once before, in the 2015-16 season when the franchise was dormant while renovations were made to Watertown Municipal Arena — the season after the Wolves won the then-Federal Hockey League title in their first campaign in the circuit.