The start of the college hockey season is being pushed back.
On Thursday, the Hockey Commissioners Association, which represents the 11 NCAA Division I men’s and women’s hockey conferences, announced that the season will be delayed due to the impact COVID-19 continues to have across the country and within higher education.
The University of Maine men’s team has traditionally played its first regular-season games on the first or second weekend of October while the women’s team has usually played its opener a week earlier.
“It was an excellent move by the commissioners to put it out there. It removes all the ambiguity,” UMaine men’s coach Red Gendron said. “We have challenges. We have a geographic footprint and will decide [as a league] how we want to do it.”
Black Bears women’s coach Rick Reichenbach said commissioners, presidents and league administrators have done a good job staying on top of the coronavirus issue and keeping coaches well informed.
Reichenbach noted that since several schools are playing football, it will give hockey an opportunity to watch and learn from it before its season begins. Each conference is expected to make the determination of starting dates, but Hockey East has not announced its plans.
“Because of the big geographic differences and the different regulations [within the NCAA, the leagues, states and schools], each league is going to have to craft something that works for their particular league so players can have a successful season and be safe,” he said.
The National Collegiate Hockey Conference, which includes defending two-time NCAA champion Minnesota Duluth, announced it wouldn’t have games before Nov. 20.
There was no NCAA Division I tournament last season due to the onset of the coronavirus in the United States.
Western Collegiate Hockey Association Commissioner Jennifer Flowers said in an Aug. 11 interview with madison.com that they are looking at a January start.
Ivy League schools, which comprise six of the 12 teams in the ECAC, won’t start until Jan. 1,2021.
Both UMaine teams are involved in dry-land training in small pods with everyone wearing masks. They will move onto the Alfond Arena ice sheet when it is put down sometime in the next two weeks, Reichenbach said.