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AHL, Tucson Roadrunners targeting February start to upcoming season
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AHL, Tucson Roadrunners targeting February start to upcoming season

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Colorado's right wing Michael Joly (88) and Colorado's center Igor Shvyrev (43) drag Roadrunners' right wing Kelly Klima (6) out of the scrum during a dust-up early in the first period of their AHL game at TCC, January 31, 2020 Tucson, Ariz.

The American Hockey League, which includes the Tucson Roadrunners, announced Wednesday that it is targeting a Feb. 5 start to the upcoming season because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The AHL said in a news release that it "continues to work with its member clubs to monitor developments and local guidelines in all 31 league cities," and that further details — presumably including whether fans will be allowed — are still to be determined. The AHL's decision comes three weeks after the NHL announced it was targeting a Jan. 1 start to its season. The Roadrunners, as the Arizona Coyotes' top minor-league affiliate, will begin playing games roughly a month later.

Coyotes CEO Xavier Gutierrez, who also oversees the Roadrunners, told the Star this month that he was "absolutely planning" on a season happening, "and we are absolutely planning on there being a season with fans."

"But you put a stake in the ground and say 'that's the plan,' and then you adjust. You course-correct. And unfortunately, a lot of the things we have to adjust to are not in our control," he added. "Where the pandemic goes from a health issue is something we have zero visibility on and zero real control over."

The Roadrunners last played March 11, when they lost to the San Diego Gulls 4-2 at Tucson Arena. The following day, the AHL announced it was suspending its season because of the virus. Tucson captured its second Pacific Division championship in three seasons with a record of 36-19-1-2.

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