ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) –The American Hockey League has canceled the remainder of the 2019-20 season creating an abrupt ending for hockey fans here and around the nation.
AHL President David Andrews broke the news early Monday morning that a restart to the season wasn’t going to happen. In a news release Andrews stated:
“After a lengthy review process, the American Hockey league has determined that the resumption and completion of the 2019-20 season is not feasible in light of current conditions.”
“The AHL continues to place paramount importance on the health and safety of our players, officials, staff and fans.”
So the IceHogs’ season ends with a record of 29-30-2-2. They finish in fifth place in the Central Division.
It was a season that started with promise for the IceHogs. They had Kris Versteeg back as their captain. They had the Sikura brothers back with another year of experience under their belts. Matthew Highmore was healthy and ready to go. The IceHogs also had Blackhawks’ first round picks Kirby Dach and Adam Boqvist on the team. And they were three-deep at goaltender. The Hogs were upbeat going into their opening game at Iowa.
“We’ve got a ton of energy. We’ve got a ton of talent, a lot of speed, so it’s going to be exciting,” said forward Tyler Sikura on October 3rd.
“We have some high-end skill with some guys that can really put the puck in the net,” said Highmore.
The season didn’t start well though. The Hogs lost their opening game at Iowa 3-2. They also lost their next two games. In mid-November Versteeg announced he was retiring.
“I couldn’t match the intensity that these kids were bringing every day,” said Versteeg. “I didn’t feel, to me, not being able to do that was a disservice to them.”
The team did come around in late November and early December. On December 20th the IceHogs were seven games above .500, But injuries began to take their toll. Dach, Boqvist and Highmore were all up with the Blackhawks. As the holidays hit the IceHogs tumbled through a 3-13 stretch. They spent the next couple months fighting to make the playoffs.
Then in March word of the coronavirus hit. After practice on March 10th head coach Derek King was asked about the possibility of having to play the remaining games without fans in the stands.
“If we have no fans it kind of hurts us, but it is what it is.”
Little did King or any of us know then that the IceHogs would not be playing another game this season.