KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Toni Daniels said canceling the Kalamazoo Wings season, because of the coronavirus pandemic, was one of the toughest decisions she’s made.
“It’s been pretty heart-wrenching. I don’t know that emotionally, personally I’ve let myself go there,” said Daniels during an interview with FOX 17 Tuesday morning. “My staff and I, we have come together to get through this.”
Daniels remembers the day she and other governors in the ECHL made the decision to cancel the remainder of the hockey season, she said.
The writing had been on the wall, said Daniels, who’s the director of business operations with the K-Wings.
March 14 the ECHL canceled all the games for all 27 of its teams in the U.S. and Canada.
Since then, it’s been tough, she said.
“It has been stressful,” Daniels said. “Every decision I’ve had to make has been ‘is this the right decision?'"
The K-Wings had six home games left in the season.
She said it was tough canceling all the games, including the ones they knew would fill every seat at the Wings Event Center where the teams plays.
“Last weekend would’ve been our Green Ice weekend to sell-out games,” Daniels said about the annual game in which players skate on green ice for St. Patrick’s Day. “In addition to that this coming weekend we had two games that had large attendance projected, along with another sell-out in April.”
Daniels said she doesn’t know the exact dollar amount of how much the K-Wings lost financially. However, they it's ‘a lot of money’ which could affect jobs.
“That’s the jobs of our players, our season staff. Those are never easy decisions,” she said. “But in minor league hockey, we’re essentially a small business. And every day we stay open, it's just super expensive.”
Two days before the ECHL canceled their season, the NHL postponed as well. However, the impact of canceling games is different, she said.
“Corporate sponsorship dollars are much different at the NHL. Revenue in terms of per ticket sales for seats, very different in the K-Wings in the Kalamazoo market vs. say Detroit,” she said. “A big piece of this is their games are televised and there’s a revenue share in that.”
She said the NHL simply makes more in revenue.
And even though it’s been stressful for the team lately, it doesn’t compare to what their fans are enduring because of the coronavirus pandemic, she said.
“There are schools closed. There are businesses now closing,” Daniels said. “I’m not saying our business isn’t important. But our children’s education, putting food on the table, our own incomes is clearly more important than six games that we’re missing out on.”
She said the fans have been kind, patient and understanding about the season coming to an abrupt end.
Daniels said she appreciates their support. However the best thing they can do now is look forward to next season in October.
“We’ll be back next fall. I don’t know what that looks like now. Nobody does,” she said. “I’m hoping that we don’t skip a beat and we have another fantastic season.”