HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - The Huntsville Havoc will begin the 2020-2021 season against the Knoxville Ice Bears Saturday night at the Von Braun Center. This will be the first game the team has played since the SPHL shut down last season in early March, due to the coronavirus.
Now, when fans return to the VBC for the first game of the season, they’ll notice some big changes.
“For the people in the suites, we built some dividers that go in between each so they don’t have to be six feet apart and they will see the seats are strapped, more than half the seats,” said Huntsville Havoc Team Owner Keith Jeffries. “Probably just over 60% of the seats are strapped so people can’t sit in them.”
Jeffries said fans will be able to buy seats in pods of 1-6 and they will have to sit in those seats. Masks will also be required to enter Havoc games and Jeffries wants fans to keep them on a majority of the time.
“They have to have it to come in, when they’re in the concourses, in the bathrooms, walking to concessions,” he said. “When they’re out of their seats they have to have it on. When they’re in their seats we encourage them to keep it on except when they’re eating and drinking.”
Jeffries said they’ll have social distancing markers and signs to separate, but it’s really up to the fans to make sure they’re following the rules.
“For their own safety, it’s important that they wear their masks, that they sit in their assigned seats and don’t move around and don’t do as much of the socializing they’ve done in the past,” he said.
Once fans are in their seats and ready to watch their Havoc, there will be a few changes to the game experience too.
“We couldn’t find a safe way to do mascots, so we’re not gonna have our mascots, which are a big hit,” Jeffries said. “They’re not going to be roaming the aisles like they normally are.”
But, Jeffries said a majority of the Havoc game experience will be the same.
As a matter of fact this year, every game will have a theme. Virtually every game will have a unique jersey,” he said. “The video, sounds, the promotions we do on the ice, most of that will remain the same.”
As they work to keep fans safe, another big priority for Jeffries and the rest of the Havoc faculty is keeping the players safe.
“We’ve created our own kind of bubble for the players, and the coaches are incredibly strict, our protocols from the league are very strict, zero tolerance, there are no exceptions,” he said.
Those protocols include restrictions on player activities and where they can go.
“There’s a list of approved places players can go and if they go some place that isn’t they will be suspended,” Jeffries said. “And not just for a day or two but for the rest of the season.”
They’ve also prepared for players to test positive for COVID-19, Jeffries said they’ve got extra rooms where the players live for those who need to quarantine during the season.
“We expect we’re going to have an outbreak, and we hope we can limit the damage,” he said. “We don’t want to cancel any games. We’ll give people as much notice as we possibly can.”
With the start of the new season, Jeffries is hoping to give fans a break from the doom and gloom with some Huntsville Havoc Hockey.
“The people that have reached out to us, it’s really important for them to do it just to have a sense of normalcy back,” he said. “It was certainly a big part of the decision making for us.”
Talking hockey, the Havoc were back-to-back SPHL Champions before the season was shut down back in March. Now, Jeffries said Havoc Head Coach Glenn Detulleo and the team are ready to defend their title.
“Glen says we’ve got a great group of young men here, really good hockey players. He expects and we expect the other teams to be good too but we believe we’re going to have a really good hockey team this year.”
Overall, the team has resigned 10 players from the last championship team.
Jeffries said Havoc fans can get tickets on Ticketmaster and from the Havoc website. The season opener is Saturday, December 26 at 7 p.m. against the Knoxville Ice Bears.