The following is a special update from Jets President Bill McCoshen.
Dear Jets fans,
I promised to give you regular updates on the status of the Jets and the upcoming NAHL season in these uncertain times. In a normal year, the Jets would have had our Welcome Banquet this past Sunday, and our boys would already be on the ice getting themselves into game shape. We are due for another update on the season.
Let me answer the biggest question first.
The 2020-21 NAHL season will happen, and the Jets will play this year. This season, our 12th, will look different than previous years. The start of our regular season was pushed from September to November, and it will conclude later, towards the end of April. Playoffs will begin in May, and end after Memorial Day. The Midwest Division expects to play as close to a full schedule as possible under the circumstances. Our players will be tested before training camp, and we are working diligently with the coaches and head athletic trainer Kathy Calkins to build upon the NAHL’s safety procedures. Safety of our players, staff, billet families and the community at-large will be our highest priority.
Now, even though it has been nearly six months since we last played a game, I want you all to know the Jets have been hard at work during this challenging offseason. All supporters of the Jets, whether their support is as a billet, a staff member, a season ticket member, or a sponsor, understand and believe in our three-pointed mission.
We are here to:
- Develop & Advance Players
- Serve & Represent Our Community, and
- Provide Affordable, Family Fun
Develop & Advance Players
Immediately after the 2019-20 season was cut short, our hockey operations staff doubled down on their efforts to find NCAA futures for our players, especially those who were aging out. Hard work paid off for age-out players like Nick Michel (D-I Alabama-Huntsville), Nick Gonrowski (D-III UW-Stevens Point), and Anthony Szurlej (D-III St. Thomas, soon becoming D-I). Returning players like Blake Dangos (D-I St. Lawrence) and Justin Thompson (D-I Long Island) also earned commitments over the offseason.
On the development side, our coaches led four safe, successful camps between June and August. Never before has a sports organization needed more care and precision to run a camp, but our coaches stepped up to the challenge and worked with the host rinks to develop and improve upon rigorous safety measures. Jets prospects for both this season and future seasons were able to safely show our coaches and scouts what they could bring to the North American Hockey League.
Players will report to Janesville on October 1. New head coach Parker Burgess, associate head coach Lennie Childs, and general manager Joe Dibble have assembled a talented group that will impress our fans and scouts around the hockey world. The roster includes a Janesville native, 16-year-old Jonah Aegerter. Jonah played last season for the Oakland Grizzlies AAA team in Michigan. He was a draft pick of the USHL’s Tri-City Storm, and was drafted in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) by the London Knights — the team that developed Chicago Blackhawk Patrick Kane. Jonah is our first local boy since Conor Lemirande wore the Jet from 2011-13. Gazette sportswriter John Barry wrote a great article yesterday about this piece of hockey serendipity.
Serve & Represent Our Community
Throughout the pandemic, this part of our mission has been, and will continue to be, challenging to deliver. With a little creativity and some support from key community partners, the Jets are up to the task. Like other Janesville community assets, we are finding new ways to give back that look different than before.
You might have seen our video of our players participating in the YWCA’s virtual Walk a Mile In Her Shoes, where they put on a pair of mom’s pumps and walked around their house, instead of the usual lap around the Pontiac Convention Center. We have added to our game-worn jersey sales campaign, offering $25 from each sale to ECHO. Coming up, we are working with Enbridge to develop a season kickoff food drive, benefiting ECHO, held at the rink in drive-thru style. Also, we will work with the School District of Janesville to find distanced, safe, but impactful ways to connect our players with area elementary students through Jr. Achievement and our Reading Club.
Provide Affordable, Family Fun
Of course this part of our mission will be the most challenging right now. When the world changes and disables us from packing 1,000 people into the rink for some Jets hockey, we have to adapt. We are working with the City to find safe solutions to bring live Jets hockey to our core fans.
We expect to have fans this year, but our attendance will be limited to protect our players, staff, and fans, and to comply with local gathering requirements. We will redesign the bleacher seating to provide families the opportunity to sit together, but also at a safe distance from other fans. Our fans will be required to wear masks, at least early in the season, and with support from the City, we will do everything we can to optimize traffic flow in the Janesville Ice Arena.
Season Ticket Members and sponsors will receive priority seating while we operate under a limited capacity. We would love to guarantee everyone a seat, but the safety of players, staff, and fans is always priority number one. Every Jets game, home and away, is always streamed live on HockeyTV, the official broadcast partner of the NAHL.
I am the Chairman of the North American Hockey League in addition to my role with the Jets. I can tell you the NAHL Board of Governors has worked very hard to put protocols in place to allow teams to operate safely this year. The NAHL is fully committed to running a season that provides our players with great competition as well as unmatched exposure events. Some teams may choose not to play this season. The South Division’s Corpus Christi IceRays and Kansas City Scouts have already made that decision. But the Jets will play!
We cannot thank you enough for sticking with us during the pandemic. With lower attendance, at least this first portion of the year, sponsorship and season tickets become more important to ability to deliver on our mission. Safety of our players, staff, billet families and the community at-large will be our highest priority.
Drop the puck!
President, Janesville Jets
Chairman, North American Hockey League Board of Governor
Wisconsin Hockey Hall of Fame ‘16