PEORIA — Alec Hagaman needs a job.
Jean-Guy Trudel has been building another powerhouse Peoria Rivermen team this summer, perhaps his best ever, but now will likely lose pieces of it.
Bart Rogers has been confronted with the idea that his Peoria team — like all others in the SPHL — might have to find a way to pay for COVID-19 tests for players.
Welcome to the day after the delay. Player, coach/GM, owner, each facing different challenges.
The SPHL has decided to delay the 2020-21 season until at least mid-December, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Depending on one's point of view, this could be a step in the right direction, or a step closer to canceling the upcoming season.
"We need a bright light," Rivermen coach Trudel said. "We live in a social media generation where people's minds change so quickly. I don't like to talk about politics. So I won't go into the ramifications of whether some of that is in play with COVID.
"I just know we need a treatment or a vaccine. And we need to support people, give them leadership, and approach this as a team challenge.
"We can beat it."
"We're going to lose some players now," said Trudel, the winningest coach in the 39-year history of the Rivermen franchise. "At least I have an idea of when the season will start, we can tell our players that. But some of those guys can't wait. They have student loans to pay, families to feed. They have to find a way to live. They'll have to get a job. And if it turns out to be a good job, will they quit it to come back and play in December? And risk that the season might not be completed again?
"It's very difficult to recruit and build a team. The Canadian border is closed and we can't get players across."
There are apartments the team needs to rent for players. Once those leases are locked in, the team is on the hook for the money even if the league later cancels the season.
There are COVID-19 protocols to be written. What happens if a team, say the Rivermen, plays a three-games, three-nights weekend road trip, then comes back to Peoria for a homestand and learns someone on one of those opposing teams was positive for COVID?
Now four teams are involved and have to be tested. If the Rivermen have to be quarantined in such a scenario, how do they play those upcoming home games? How does the business side of the operation invest in giveaway items, or special appearances, or design and buy special jerseys (the Rivermen had 14 such nights last season) without knowing for sure those games will ever happen?
Is it worth starting up an abbreviated season in December while knowing another outbreak could cancel it? MLB is having issues already after its first week.
The NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB can afford to test players daily and spend money to house and monitor their games in a bubble and play with no spectators. They have revenue coming from TV deals.
Minor-league sports can't do that.
"We live and die with our local corporate sponsors, and they are having a tough time from COVID, too," said Rivermen co-owner Rogers. "And we can't survive without fans attending. We need that revenue.
"There is a prominent Georgia doctor among the new group that just bought our Macon franchise. He is working on setting up protocols for our league. But our projections show $125-$175 per test, for 25 players, every week.
"It's expensive (it calculates to about $4,400 per week, per team), especially when you can't generate any revenue from fans in attendance. We're dealing with a barrage of variables, and they change every day. And within each of those variables there are subsets of issues.
"What happens if we get a player back from the ECHL? We have to test him and wait for him to be medically cleared to play. Where do we house him so he's isolated during that process?
"We don't have a bubble in the SPHL."
"I need to get a job," said veteran Rivermen captain Alec Hagaman, the only Peoria-born player to wear the "C" in the franchise's history. "I have my own hockey camp, and I'm also helping run (Trudel's) camp, but by the end of August I'll need to work. I love playing pro hockey. The perks that come with it are great. At this level, we aren't playing for money, we're playing because we love the game.
"But I have to take care of my family. A lot of guys around the league will be in that situation.
"I don't think any of us can guarantee we'll be back."
Dave Eminian is the Journal Star sports columnist, and covers the Rivermen and Chiefs. He writes the Cleve In The Eve sports column for pjstar.com. Reach him at 686-3206 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @icetimecleve.