The season is over for the Madison Capitols and the United States Hockey League.
The junior league announced Wednesday that the remainder of the 2019-20 season, originally postponed March 12 because of the COVID-19 coronavirus, won't be played.
The USHL Board of Directors unanimously decided to end the season, according to the league.
Capitols President Andrew Joudrey said Sunday's recommendation by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention against gatherings of 50 people or more for the next eight weeks was a "very sober reality" to the league.
"The call today was very quick," Joudrey said of the board of directors discussion. "Everybody understands the magnitude of it. It was like, listen, it's not worth it with player safety. We have kids coming from all over the world.
"There wasn't discussion the way a lot of times there is on decisions. Everyone was in agreement pretty quickly on this being the best decision."
The Capitols had 12 games remaining, five of them at home, when the season was suspended. They finished 12-34-4, last in the league, but on a three-game winning streak.
Some league teams had as many as nine home games remaining, nearly one-third of the home schedule, so the financial impacts vary.
"This decision was not an easy one to make, but was a necessity in order to keep our athletes, staffs and fans in all 16 of our communities safe amid this international health risk," USHL President and commissioner Tom Garrity said in a statement. "While we believe our product is the best junior hockey that fans can view, we also understand the health of our athletes, employees, fans and communities is more important during this time."
The Capitols are keeping on their 11-person full-time staff, Joudrey said.
"It'll be challenging," he said. "But we're hopeful and positive that things will eventually return to normal. We want to make sure we're planning and doing our due diligence on getting ready for next season. We're mindful that we're in a different world than we've been in."
In their third season playing at Bob Suter's Capitol Ice Arena in Middleton, the Capitols averaged an announced attendance of 1,973 over 25 games. That was a 5% increase over the 2018-19 season.
The team was happy with the growth, Joudrey said, but needs to see better results on the ice.
"We want to be able to win more games — I'll be honest," he said. "We want to have more traction on that side to get the hockey fans more excited."
Capitols leading scorer Carson Bantle finished the season 12th in the league with 49 points.
A pair of players who have signed to join the University of Wisconsin next season were in the top 20: Mathieu De Saint Phalle of the Chicago Steel led the league with 60 points and was second with 30 goals; Sam Stange was 17th with 45 points combined with the Sioux City Musketeers and the Sioux Falls Stampede.
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