The puck won’t be dropping on the college hockey season just yet.
The Hockey Commissioners Association, which represents the 11 Division I men’s and women’s hockey conferences, announced Thursday that the start of the 2020-21 season will be delayed due to the impact of COVID-19.
In a statement, the HCA said: “The eleven Division I men’s and women’s ice hockey conferences, represented by the Hockey Commissioners Association (HCA), are committed to providing memorable experiences for our student-athletes during the upcoming season. The conferences have been working together on plans to return to play with a focus on the health and safety of everyone associated within our campus communities. Due to the impact COVID-19 continues to have across the country and within higher education, the start of competition for the Division I college hockey season will be delayed. Each conference will announce plans for the season individually. We look forward to enjoying the college hockey experience this season.”
The HCA’s statement doesn’t list a specific time as to when college hockey will return to play. Women’s college hockey was supposed to begin Sept. 19, while men’s hockey was set to open Oct. 3.
“We’ve been talking as a group of commissioners for some time on the various issues with regard to return to play and league schedules and so on,” ECAC Hockey commissioner Steve Hagwell said. “We’re constantly in communication. From a league standpoint, I apprised our administrators and coaches of that scenario. The realization is, given the current pandemic, that hockey wasn’t going to be played in September, when the women are officially allowed to start Sept. 19, and the men Oct. 3.
“There aren’t any schedules out there. There isn’t any information. We just felt the need, as a group of commissioners, to show an united front for college hockey and state what some may say is the obvious: That there will be a delayed start.”
Both Union men’s hockey coach Rick Bennett and RPI men’s hockey coach Dave Smith weren’t surprised.
“It’s the right decision,” Bennett said. “The more we learn about the re-socialization process with the campuses, I think it will start to formulate more so that we’ll have a season, hopefully.”
“We all expected something,” Smith said. “What you’re seeing from college hockey and each of the leagues is a unified message that we’re aware of what’s going on on our campuses. It’s affecting every campus in a similar fashion, but to different degrees and extent. The start of the season being delayed is something that we can communicate. There’s a lot of uncertainties right now, and this is one of the certainties that we can share with the people that follow college hockey.”
ECAC Hockey is unique in that half of its 12 teams are from Ivy League institutions. In July, the Ivy League announced that no sports would be played in the fall semester. If the Ivy League decides to extend that into the winter and spring, that would mean only six ECACH schools could compete should the season get underway.
“We have members that are interested in playing, that are able to play, to use November or December as an example, and want to play,” Hagwell said. “We’re working return-to-play protocols to put in place from a league standpoint, and developing a league schedule that likely will be January on. Again, teams can play, those that are eligible and able and willing, non-conference games prior to that time.”
Hagwell declined to discuss what a schedule would look like if the Ivy League opted out of the season.
“That’s a hypothetical that I am not entertaining,” Hagwell said. “Right now, I’m working on moving this league forward, working on the return-to-play protocols and developing schedules for the teams to play and conduct a season.”
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