While it should come as no surprise given the mass postponements of other college sports this fall, NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Hockey has opted to follow suit. The Hockey Commissioners Association, which represents the 11 hockey conferences across Division I, announced that the season will not begin in early October as usual, but instead will be delayed to a to-be-determined future date:
The 11 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.
The good news is that, though each conference will determine their own start date, it likely won’t be too long before college hockey begins in some capacity. The NCHC, which boasts top programs like North Dakota, Minnesota-Duluth, and Denver, have already noted that they plan to start on or around November 20th, which would put them around the same time as the hopeful start of NHL training camp for next season as well. ESPN’s Chris Peters writes that other conferences are believed to be eyeing this timeline as well.
However, NCAA Hockey will not be at full strength when the league does kick off this season. As previously reported, the Ivy League Conference has cancelled all sports in the fall semester, as opposed to just “fall sports”. Seven of the Ivy League’s member schools play in the ECAC and are not expected to be back on the ice until January 1 or later. With half of their team’s out of action, the ECAC itself may have a more difficult call to make on when to begin their season.
As The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy notes, when the college hockey season does commence there will be no greater story than the elite 2021 NHL Draft prospects at the University of Michigan. Defenseman Owen Power and forwards Kent Johnson and Matthew Beniers – who recently switched his commitment from the sidelined Harvard University – area all expected to be top ten picks in the draft next summer. Never before has the NCAA boasted this depth of top tier draft talent in one season, never mind on one team. With a number of NHL prospects on the roster already and several more set to be drafted in October, the Wolverines are undoubtedly the team to watch once college hockey makes its return.