Having had the 2019-20 season halted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Hockey East intends to have a 2020-21 season, the league announced Wednesday. The emphasis will be on league play, with details on a start date and length of season to be released at a later date.
“Hockey East and its member institutions have been facing uncertain and unprecedented times and anticipate further challenges as the 2020-21 season approaches,” the league said in a statement. “Ensuring the health, safety, and physical and mental well-being of our student-athletes, coaches, on-ice officials, league staff, and school administrators has been and will continue to be the league’s top priority. Ultimately, Hockey East is committed to providing the best experience possible for its student-athletes.”
The 11-team men’s field, as well as the 10-team women’s field, is made up entirely of schools in New England, which league officials believe will be a benefit in trying to come up with a schedule that will both account for added safety measures as well as the ability to adjust on the fly to any obstacles that could arise due to the virus.
The proximity of the schools was a detail that incoming commissioner Steve Metcalf viewed as an asset when discussing the future of the league of the last spring.
“Obviously the economy, and some of the stresses that it has placed on schools and conferences is real,” said Metcalf. “Hockey East is very fortunate because we’re relatively compact geographically, so we can drive to our games. I think that’s a real advantage for our league, that some of the other leagues don’t have.”
Among the many issues still to be determined is the number of games to be played. Typically, the individual schools would have released their schedules by now, with games beginning the first weekend in October. Last season, the men played 24 league games, while the women had 27 league contests. When the 2019-20 season was cancelled on March 12, the men had just completed the regular season, and the women the conference tournament.
“Hockey East member institutions will continue to rely upon the most up-to-date medical information available to establish best protocols for a return to on-campus workouts and re-socialization of athletes,” the league said. “These protocols will remain in full compliance with federal, state, and local guidelines while the conference office formalizes a league-wide return to play plan.”
On Wednesday night, the Northeast Conference, of which Merrimack College is a member in every sport except for its Hockey East affiliation, voted to to postpone all fall sports athletics competition and championships. The conference presidents will reconvene by Oct. 1 to discuss future competitive opportunities.
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