Going into this season, everyone in college hockey pretty much knew it would be a weird year. The realities of the pandemic made it such that concessions were going to have to be made, creative thinking was going to be necessary, and a certain suspension of disbelief was going to be needed in order to have a proper season.
And, for the most part, college hockey has done that. The NCAA appears to have made proper adjustments in acknowledgement of the realities of the season, bonafide plans have been made for the tournament, and a number of stakeholders have moved towards changes that accommodate without sacrificing integrity.
And then there is Hockey East.
It feels like we have descended fully into just making everything up as we go along in Hockey East play. Hockey East is still hiding the ball on how they are calculating the Hockey East Power Index, for reasons passing good sense; the athletic directors suddenly decided to not award Northeastern’s women’s team, the clear best team in the league this year, the regular season championship after saying they would award it; we’re apparently allowing BU to just cancel games when it can’t field a goalie despite having a perfectly good club team to pull from (and I know that COVID issues probably factored into that, but there is no reason to allow the game to be a no contest rather than a forfeit since it was BU’s fault the game couldn’t be played.)
And perhaps most troubling, no one really knows what’s going to happen next.
For a league that started out this season with such high hopes to have everything together in its pandemic response, the past few weeks have been nothing short of a bungling of the end of the season. The standings have been robbed of any legitimacy by the league office, kids that have been playing for a regular season title have been told they can’t win it because the league can’t figure out a way to transparently award it, and BU’s cancelled game threatens the integrity of the schedule. For some reason, the league is digging in its heels and is not showing any understanding that maybe it is shooting itself in the foot in regards to credibility by hiding how it is seeding the conference tournament.
There was no reason for things to be this bad. It’s entirely on Hockey East that it has gotten to this point. Instead of transparently coming up with ways to do something as basic as determine a regular season champion or decide whether to proceed with a game when a team is shorthanded, they have just thrown everything out and started doing things arbitrarily. Meanwhile, while Hockey East is trying to rub two rocks together to come up with its secret plan to fight inflation or whatever, leagues like the NCHC have announced how they are going to award seeding in the tournament because it really doesn’t have to be this complicated.
Now Hockey East could release the HEPI formula at some point, thought by all accounts they have no intention of doing so, but that still doesn’t change the fact that for most of the season there was a complete lack of understanding of how the league was going to determine seeding, and the integrity of the league suffered. And, for what it’s worth, that still doesn’t change the fact that instead of coming up with a simple, easy to access way to determine a champion (as other leagues have done), the league decided to proceed in the most convoluted way possible, because why should simplicity be a virtue we pursue?
We’re eventually going to get to the end of the season. If no regular season champion is crowned, certainly a first seed will be awarded in the tournament, the tournament will be conducted and we’ll get to the NCAA Tournament, and hopefully next year we can get back to a sense of normalcy in the league. But there is no reason for things to be this bad right now. Hockey East has had more than ample time to get things together. That it hasn’t is a shame, and it is a failure of leadership.