Bulldogs following NCHC, CDC guidelines for Thanksgiving ahead of departure to pod in Omaha

NCHC teams are just days away from hopping on buses to Nebraska to begin the 2020-21 season .

Minnesota Duluth players huddle at center ice during an October preseason practice at Amsoil Arena in Duluth. The Bulldogs will depart Sunday for Omaha, Nebraska, where they will play 10 games in 19 days, starting Dec. 2 against Denver. (Clint Austin/

Minnesota Duluth’s men’s and women’s Division I hockey players have been living in a quasi-bubble since returning to campus, sticking to their residence, Amsoil Arena and the classroom, if they have any in-person classes, for the past three months.

That bubble tightened for everyone in the men’s program this week with the NCHC expecting everyone to quarantine in the seven days leading up to their departure to the pod in Omaha, Nebraska. The Bulldogs are scheduled to board buses Sunday for the 532-mile drive south to Baxter Arena, where they play 10 games in 19 days, starting with Denver on Dec. 2.

As part of the league’s return-to-play protocols, the NCHC is asking anyone traveling with the team to Omaha to “isolate from the public and limit interactions, as possible, with anyone else not traveling with the team.” Teams are allowed to get together only for practice, workouts and to conduct film study.

So what does that mean for Thanksgiving?


For the UMD men’s team, it means small gatherings amongst themselves at their residence here in Duluth. Each house or apartment is celebrating Thanksgiving just amongst themselves, with meals being delivered to the players.

“They’ll eat well, I can tell you that,” Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said Tuesday during UMD’s Zoom session as part of NCHC Media Day(s). “They’re just going to eat with their households, the six guys in the apartments on campus are going to get together and have their meals. It will be stay at home and have whatever you want, we don’t even have to have turkey this year.”

The Bulldogs plans for Thanksgiving not only meet league guidelines, but those set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the holiday weekend , which suggest virtual celebrations and those with your household pose the lowest risk of spreading COVID-19.

“Nobody is going anywhere,” said Sandelin, who himself will also be staying home on Thanksgiving. “We’re not going to practice that day, just let them enjoy Thanksgiving, whether it's virtual with their family or together with the guys. We’ll get back to practice on Friday and Saturday before we leave.”

The league is having teams take two charter buses apiece to Omaha to allow for physical distancing, and masks are required on the buses.


Once in Omaha, players won’t be necessarily be in a locked-down bubble like NHLers were in Toronto and Edmonton this fall, but they will be expected to limit their activity to their hotel and Baxter Arena. All four hotels the NCHC is using are within walking distance to Baxter Arena. Teams are to refrain from interacting with anyone from another team, hotel staff or any other outsiders.

The NCHC is working to set up relaxation and recreation areas for teams that are not open to the general public.

Bulldogs junior captain Noah Cates said he’s looking forward to spending a tad more time with his teammates in Omaha. Thus far they’ve only been all together at the rink for practices.

“It’s pretty crazy, you’re either at home or at the rink,” Cates said. “It’s been different, but I’m excited to get in the pod and be around the guys a little more.”

Tigers remain in quarantine

Six of the NCHC’s eight teams will be leaving for Omaha this weekend, with St. Cloud State and Western Michigan departing on Saturday. Miami, North Dakota, Denver and UMD hit the road Sunday. A seventh school, host Nebraska-Omaha, is obviously already there.

The issue for the league at the moment is its eighth member, Colorado College. The Tigers’ departure day remains up in the air after pausing all team activities on Nov. 17 due to a player in the program receiving a positive COVID-19 test result.


Colorado College’s shutdown is supposed to last 14 days, ending on Dec. 1 when the Tigers were scheduled to open the pod against the host Mavericks. The Bulldogs are scheduled to play the Tigers twice in Omaha, on Dec. 6 and Dec. 13.

NCHC commissioner Josh Fenton said Monday an announcement is planned at some point this week concerning the pod schedule, though the league is still gathering information.

“We do expect some level of impact to the schedule, we’re just not sure what that impact is going to be,” Fenton said. “We also want to be careful and cautious about rushing out any sort of revision to the schedule, knowing that the same situation could potentially occur at a different institution.”

Tigers coach Mike Haviland, himself quarantined in his Colorado home, said Tuesday during his Zoom session the team has only had one player test positive thus far. The entire program was tested again Monday and the program is currently awaiting those results.

“I can just tell you the guys' spirits are are way better than what it was eight days ago,” Haviland said. “They see the end in sight here and getting out of quarantine and trying to get to Omaha.”

UMD nabs preseason honors

Members of the All-NCHC first team at the end of last season and also second-team All-Americans, Bulldogs junior forwards Noah Cates and Cole Koepke were both named to the All-NCHC preseason team on Tuesday.


Koepke, a 2018 sixth-round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning out of Hermantown, led all NCHC skaters with 14 goals in league play last year and Cates, a 2017 fifth-round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers, was third in the league in scoring during NCHC play with 27 points.

Preseason favorite North Dakota landed three on the preseason all-league team in senior forward Jordan Kawaguchi and defensemen Matt Kiersted, a senior, and Jacob Bernard-Docker, a junior. The goaltender pick was Denver sophomore Magnus Chrona.

Co-host of the Bulldog Insider Podcast and college hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and The Rink Live covering the Minnesota Duluth men's and women's hockey programs.
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