JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Icemen are looking ahead to next season. It comes after wrapping up the 2020-21 schedule on Saturday.
The Icemen fell in their final game of the season and were six points shy of making the playoffs. The voice of the Icemen, Alex Reed, said it was a year of challenges.
The protocols in place from the ECHL had players, coaches and staff getting tested for the coronavirus twice a week. They all had to fill out an app and have their temperature checked.
If the team made the postseason, Reed said, the team had everything in place to welcome back fans at full capacity. He added the fans that came out were great and they brought energy throughout the season.
Moving on to next season, Reed said the offseason is going to fly by quickly.
“You are not normally playing hockey this late unless you are in the finals,” said Reed.
The team will start work on getting the 2021-22 season underway. The schedule set by the ECHL has them starting in October. Reed said he knows fans are eager to get back into the Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena. If things continue to progress, they will have games at full capacity next season. The Icemen on Sunday tweeted out a message from Icemen owner Andy Kaufmann. In the message, Kaufmann said, “We literally can’t wait until November 6 when we get to experience opening night together at full capacity and without masks again!”
Reed mentioned there was a noticeable difference in having an average of 3,900 fans in the building compared to the normal 9,000 fans for a Friday night game. He added the support from the people who came out was great.
Jacksonville will have a lot to do in a short period of time. The team will also prepare to host the ECHL All-Star Game. The league chose the city to host it for the 2020-21 season, but due to the pandemic, it was pushed back a year. Reed said the positive is it gives more time for the team to put everything together.
“This is a big event not only for our organization but for the city of Jacksonville,” said Reed.
The game itself will be broadcasted on the NHL Network. But the city is expected to see a boost economically, as the team will host a fanfest and a number of people will also be booking hotels and heading to restaurants.
Jacksonville will also start working on renovating the Jacksonville Ice and Sportsplex, which will be known as the Icemen Igloo. Reed said the renovations, which include an Icemen training facility, start in early August and take between eight to 12 months.
Reed said the facility will aim to grow the sport in the area and bring more people to Jacksonville.
“There are a lot of great ice facilities in Florida,” said Reed. “Those get a lot of tournaments and boost the economy. A lot of those parents and people driving to those tournaments had to drive right past Jacksonville.”
The Icemen may not be on the ice for the next few months, but they will be working hard to set up a season for the fans and help boost the economy as well.