WATERTOWN — The Watertown Wolves announced Wednesday that the team will remain on a pause because of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.
In addition, Wolves majority owner Andreas Johansson said it was “unlikely” the team would play any kind of season in the Federal Prospects Hockey League until next fall.
“While some teams are now shortly ready to begin play in the FPHL, we have decided to remain on pause,” Johansson said Wednesday. “As after last week, we are not sure that we trust other organizations to be compliant — and observe all COVID protocols, and our (No. 1) priority is the health and well-being of our players, coaches, officials, as well as the community as a whole.”
The team made the announcement that it was officially going on a pause via a statement on its Facebook page Wednesday afternoon.
“After careful consideration, we have decided to remain ‘on pause’ for the time being, as we wait to see further development and progress of the COVID-19 pandemic throughout the country,” the team said in the post. “After events that have recently transpired as we attempted to commence play, we are not confident that all member organizations are committed — and willing — to follow all COVID related safety protocols, as mandated by the league, as well as State officials, and we do not feel that we are in a position to safely resume play at this point.”
The announcement comes one week after the Wolves and the Elmira Enforcers were scheduled to begin the league’s regular season. But last Wednesday’s game between the two teams at Watertown Municipal Arena was called off following a pregame and off-ice incident between several players, which eventually led to Elmira forfeiting the game. Elmira and Watertown, the only two teams who were ready to play at the time, were to play a 16-game schedule over the month of February, but play was suspended by the league last week and the schedule between the two teams was removed from the league web site.
“We also realize we are up against it time-wise and if we don’t start to play soon, we will not have any ice available to us,” Johansson said of the Watertown arena.
“If we get to a position where other teams are playing, and we can see that protocols are being followed and there are no outbreaks, and if we still have time on our side to play, before the ice comes out in Watertown, we would consider playing,” Johansson added.
The team shed further background on this point in its Facebook post:
“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. 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.”
Johansson said late last week that some Wolves players had left town to return home.
He said he remains committed to keeping a team in Watertown, even if he must wait until next season.
“Under FPHL rules, all your favorite players that joined us to form what is likely the strongest team ever in Watertown, will still belong to Watertown for next season, regardless of what decisions we make as it relates to the rest of the season,” the Facebook post continued. “In order not to stop anyone from an opportunity to play the game they love, we are offering our players an opportunity to join other teams on loan, until we decide that it is safe to resume play again.”
The post continued: “We will continue to monitor the mandates surrounding fan attendance at games in Jefferson County. If we are able to allow fans, we will do all we can to bring competitive hockey at some point this season, as long as all safety protocols can be met.”
The team also had a message for its season-ticket holders and corporate sponsors: “Of course, all corporate partners — as well as season ticket holders — will be given full credit for any and all funds spent, and we look forward to welcoming you back to The Den as soon as it is safe to do so.”
Other teams in the league that continue to be on a pause and haven’t yet scheduled any preseason or regular-season games include Port Huron in Michigan, Danville in Illinois, Carolina in North Carolina and Columbus in Georgia.