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College Hockey is Already Feeling the Effect of COVID-19

NCAA HOCKEY: APR 13 Div I Men’s Championship Game - Massachusetts v Minnesota Duluth

Even though we are still months away from the scheduled beginning of the college hockey season, COVID-19 is already showing an effect on the college hockey world.

Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald published a story Tuesday about cancellations of cross-country non-conference road trips that commonly dot the October/November slate. You should go read it.

One particular potential cancellation that will certainly pique the interest of people on this site is that St. Cloud State is expected to cancel its trip to Boston. That means both Northeastern and Boston College will likely miss out on a big game in October if the season were to start on time.

This brings us to another potential reality that may unfold as the nation braces for the potential impacts in the fall in the wake of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Even if we are in a position where games can be be played on time (and that is far from a guarantee), the landscape of college hockey may be altered in a significant way, particularly in regards to travel.

If travel is compromised, it’ll be interesting to see how the college hockey world reacts. Hockey East has the benefit of being a bus league, meaning that there is not a lot of travel that needs to be done to play league games. But what of conferences such as the Big Ten? In order to play a proper conference schedule, a team from Wisconsin might have to play a team in Pennsylvania. That is not an insignificant amount of travel. Programs may justify it by saying that non-conference games are different than conference games, but if the rationale behind a program like St. Cloud cancelling its trip to Boston is health, wouldn’t the same health concerns still exist, particularly for in-conference games in November?

What of programs like Arizona State or the Alaskas? Arizona State has already had a series against Holy Cross cancelled, it’s a significant trip for any program in the country, and Arizona State does not have the safety net of a conference schedule. For the Alaskas, the inclination, especially given such turmoil regarding the status of the programs, is likely to play hockey. With that said, Alaska as a state has had the benefit of not having as significant a COVID-19 outbreak as of right now. Are the Alaskas in a position where they will feel comfortable sending their student-athletes to places where they have a higher likelihood of exposure? Would it be ethical for the Alaskas to risk their student-athletes becoming vectors for the disease and risk a problem for their communities?

We’re only in May, and a lot of questions still have to be answered. But we’re certainly at a point right now, despite the illusion of time, where questions are starting to be answered.