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Spartans opt out of 2021-22 hockey season

Southern Oregon Spartans

Due to the unpredictability of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and no guarantees moving forward that current restrictions will be lifted, the Southern Oregon Spartans announced Tuesday that the Junior A hockey club will be opting out of the 2021-22 season in the United States Premier Hockey League.

The Spartans spent a tumultuous last year trying to make things work for their debut USPHL season, shipping off to Klamath Falls to utilize the Bill Collier Ice Arena, an outdoor rink, to accommodate state mandates placed on indoor contact sports.

Dylan and Brie Martin purchased the Spartans franchise in June 2019 and released a joint statement Tuesday to express the details behind a decision they were “saddened to announce.”

“The decision to not play this upcoming season was forced upon the Spartans by the unpredictability of the ongoing pandemic and the announcements made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDD), Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and the governor’s office,” the couple said in the statement. “The COVID-19 restrictions and back-and-forth decisions made by these authorities during the prime part of our offseason have made preparing for this upcoming season impossible.”

The Spartans were part of a western expansion of the USPHL in April 2020 but subsequently saw a delay to the start of their season due to the coronavirus and the impact it had on The RRRink and other indoor training facilities.

The continued question marks on when and how the Spartans would be able to fulfill commitments to its players, fans and fellow league members proved too much to overcome when evaluating potential play moving forward.

“Our hearts go out to all of our players, host families, sponsors, fans and Rogue Valley community,” the statement continued. “We hoped by now restrictions in the state of Oregon and Jackson County would be farther along.”

Dylan Martin, who also serves as Spartans head coach, was unavailable for further comment Thursday but the released statement did offer some hope for a future return to the ice for the team.

“We hope the state of Oregon is fully operational by the 2022-23 season and that we will be able to play in front of a packed Madhouse again,” the couple said as part of a thank you to the community in its news release. “In the meantime, we remain dedicated to growing the game of hockey in Southern Oregon.”

For more information, go to sospartans.com or call 541-282-8430.