MEDFORD, Ore. — For nearly 15 years, the Southern Oregon Spartans junior hockey franchise has played their home games at The RRRink. Three days after the Spartans announced they wouldn't be playing in the upcoming 2021-22 season, The RRRink announced they would not be renewing the Spartans contract.
The Spartans' decision to not play this season after only playing six games in the 2020-21 season during the pandemic was not one Spartan's owners Dylan and Brie Martin took lightly. Long, restless nights were followed by stressful meetings about what the best course of action was. They tried to navigate the ever-changing coronavirus restrictions for indoor contact sports in Oregon.
"I'm just frustrated. I mean, frustrated beyond belief," Dylan told NewsWatch 12 Sports about trying to figure out if he could field a team in southern Oregon. "It's one day, you know, [the Oregon Health Authority will] come out with these restrictions, and the next day there'll be completely reversed or completely wiped out."
The decision to not play didn't have anything to do with the financials of the Southern Oregon hockey team, Dylan told NewsWatch 12 Sports. It had everything to do, though, with the uncertainty of being able to bring players from thousands of miles around the globe and actually be allowed to have a season.
"It was really difficult because we knew that the community would go another year without the Spartans," Dylan said. "But at the same time, the decision process had a lot more to do with the kids and the players than having Spartans hockey."
What the Spartans weren't prepared for when they made their decision to forgo the 2021-22 season on May 17 was their home ice, The RRRink, announcing three days later the Spartans would not be coming back.
On May 20, The RRRink posted on their website that after receiving word from the Spartans owners they wouldn't be fielding a team, "The RRRink will not be renewing the contract with the Spartans." In addition, the ice rink still desires a junior hockey franchise to play in their facilities and is actively searching for one to play in Medford in the upcoming winter season.
NewsWatch 12 Sports reached out to The RRRink for more information on their decision, the owners said they did not have any additional comment at this time, but hoped to have more information regarding the future of junior hockey at The RRRink later this month.
Spartans owners Dylan and Brie Martin were upset by this move but said they see it as an opportunity to grow the Spartans brand within the Rogue Valley. Dylan told NewsWatch 12 Sports they have been in talks with others in the area about building a new ice rink to house Spartans hockey and help grow youth hockey in southern Oregon.
For long-time Spartans fans who are worried about the team leaving though, Dylan says not to worry.
"I want people to know that the Spartans are very much alive and well and we're going to keep pushing forward to keep them in the valley."