The Winnipeg Jets’ current ECHL affiliate Jacksonville Icemen will be staying in Florida for at least another five years. Whether they remain in partnership with True North Sports + Entertainment is a whole different story. The club has recently operated on a year-by-year contract basis, but the solidarity shown by this new five-year contract may prove to be a stepping stone to a longer agreement.
“We’re thrilled to have announced today that we’re here to stay in the City of Jacksonville, where hockey belongs,” the club wrote in a prepared statement this past week. “We have reached an agreement to extend the lease agreement at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena another five years. Thank you to all of our partners who have been a part of the Icemen journey so far. We’re looking forward to even greater things to come.”
The Icemen have spent the past three seasons as the Manitoba Moose player outlet. Whenever the Moose are in need of players, or should they have players requiring conditioning stints, Jacksonville has been the ‘minor league’ team serving as the pipeline of talent. The Icemen entered the ECHL in the 2016-17 season, and worked as the tier II affiliate team for the Jets on a recall basis. When in need of players due to injury or emergency NHL loan, the Manitoba Moose turn to the Icemen to fill empty roster slots.
After a one-year hiatus from the ECHL, the former Evansville Icemen returned in 2017-18, helping themselves to a 26-39-7 record. Prior to their new affiliation with Jacksonville for the 2017-18 season, the Moose had previously been affiliated with the Tulsa Oilers and the Ontario Reign. With these affiliation contract extension announcements typically coming in the offseason, news should be expected soon from True North on the potential of a new contract.
Last season the Icemen went 24-29-7 in 60 games prior to the COVID-19 shutdown. The team finished sixth in the South Division. The ECHL has announced its 2020-21 season will begin as a split season with 13 teams playing 72 games, beginning on December 11, 2020, and the remaining teams will play 62 games, beginning on January 15, 2021. Jacksonville will be part of the 13 teams that will play 72 games. A schedule will be posted soon.