The National Collegiate Hockey Conference is one of multiple leagues preparing to officially announce a delay to the start of the college hockey season because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in the United States. An announcement, which has long been expected, will likely be delivered within a week, according to two sources.
It's unclear whether the announcement will include a new targeted start date. But behind the scenes, college hockey leaders are increasingly optimistic about holding a 2020-21 season and are continuing to work toward a mid-to-late November start, aligning the hockey season with college basketball's season.
Exact details of what the season could look like are still very much up in the air, especially in the West, where day-long bus trips aren't always possible. The NCHC has explored many different ideas of how to handle a season in the midst of a pandemic — including some outside-the-box possibilities — but the league has not settled on anything yet.
The announcement of a delayed start comes as no surprise.
By Aug. 1, nearly every league had become resigned to the fact that the season would not open on Oct. 3 as originally planned. They turned their attention toward the possibility of starting in either mid-to-late November or early January.
In the last month, momentum and planning has turned toward the November date.
Nonconference cancellations have been trickling in since the summer.
At Minnesota Duluth, the men’s program has already postponed an exhibition against University of Guelph (Ontario, Canada) and the 2020 Ice Breaker Tournament at Amsoil Arena to future seasons. A nonconference flight to UMass-Lowell the weekend of Oct. 16-17 was also replaced by a nonconference bus trip to Northern Michigan, however, that series too is now also in doubt as college hockey debates whether nonconference play will happen in 2020-21.
The Bulldogs women’s program is currently scheduled to open 2020-21 later this month with a trip to Bemidji State, however, a source tells the News Tribune the women’s Western Collegiate Hockey Association will be among those college hockey leagues announcing delays to their 2020-21 season in the next week, if not sooner.
A nonconference trip to Mercyhurst and home series against Robert Morris have already been pushed back to future seasons for the Bulldogs women.
The News Tribune’s Matt Wellens contributed to this report.