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ECHL's Toledo Walleye, a Red Wings affiliate, to sit out 2020-21 season

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — There will be no pro hockey in Toledo this season.

The Toledo Walleye, who are a Red Wings affiliate, have chosen to opt out of the 2020-21 partial regular season.

The Toledo Walleye are opting out of the 2020-21 season.

Walleye players were notified Tuesday morning of the decision.

Toledo joins 11 other ECHL teams  — out of 26 — to opt out of the 2020-21 season, as part of the league’s Pandemic Voluntary Suspension program.

The Walleye intend to return for their 12th season at Huntington Center for the 2021-22 season.

Toledo originally was given the go-ahead to begin the season in February from the ECHL Board of Governors and Professional Hockey Players’ Association.

But the inability to have fans in the arena made it almost impossible for the Walleye return.

In a statement, Walleye president and CEO Joe Napoli said, “We are grateful to the member teams of the ECHL who gave us the opportunity to push the start of our season to February. We had hoped the extra time would be enough for the vaccine distribution to begin to take hold and to loosen the COVID-19 attendance restriction for indoor arenas to the point where we could safely play a significant portion of the 2020-21 season in front of fans. 

"Unlike Major League Sports that enjoy the benefit of national and international TV and streaming media rights contracts, the Walleye’s financial stability is dependent upon attendance, and the generosity of local sponsors.

"After much discussion, we have decided to turn our focus to a safe, healthy and successful 2021-22 season. We are heartbroken for our fans, our players, our employees and the downtown Toledo neighborhood that depends upon the success of the Walleye.”

Under the current affiliation, the Red Wings provide several NHL-contract players to the Walleye, as well as signing players to AHL/ECHL contracts who can play for either Grand Rapids or Toledo.

Twitter: @tkulfan