Steve Metcalf was attempting to explain what it was like to have a season while dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic
“There’s not a playbook for this,” said the first-year commissioner for Hockey East. “You’re building the airplane while you’re flying it.”
The truest indication of that statement would come just hours later, when the Maine men’s hockey team was forced to pull out Thursday morning of this weekend’s series at UMass Lowell after a positive COVID-19 case was identified in the Black Bears program.
The league was able to act quickly, with UConn, which was not scheduled to play this weekend, now on the schedule to host UMass Lowell on Monday.
Teams having to withdraw from competition had been commonplace early, as a season that had already been postponed until Nov. 20 saw only three teams play a game in the first two weeks — UMass, UConn and Boston College.
At the beginning of each week, Metcalf works with associate commissioners Brian Smith and Kate McAfee, as well as supervisors of officials Brian Murphy and Dave Lezinski, to figure out which schools will be able to play the following weekend. The goal is to release an updated schedule on Monday or Tuesday. In the last two weeks, 24 of the 25 games on both the men’s and women’s schedule were able to be played.
In Week 3, Merrimack and Providence got rolling, while last weekend saw Maine, UNH, Northeastern and UMass Lowell join the fray. This weekend, it will be Vermont’s turn to get started.
“We’re certainly hopeful as we have a few more teams starting their season and being able to play that perhaps we can build a little momentum,” said Metcalf. “We’re always trying to get everyone that’s healthy playing a game.”
This week’s rescheduling resulted in a tripleheader on NESN for Saturday, beginning with Providence at Northeastern at 1 p.m. followed by the women’s Northeastern at Holy Cross game at 3:30 p.m., and Vermont at UMass at 6 p.m.
The men’s Merrimack at New Hampshire series was postponed.
“I think both the schools and NESN have been great to deal with in this regard. They’ve both been very flexible,” said Metcalf. “From the schools’ perspective, having no fans gives them much more flexibility to play the games. Schools and coaches are more willing to look at non-traditional game times especially if we can add the exposure of putting the games on NESN.”
It also gives NESN some live programming while it waits for the NHL and the Bruins to come up with a plan to return to action.
As for Hockey East’s return to action, the league announced this week that all teams will qualify for the league tournament, and not just the top eight, as had been the case in recent years.
“Given the uncertainty of the scheduling, the uneveness of games played, the strength of schedule, it just seemed like a sensible thing to do, because of all those factors that make this season so unusual,” said Metcalf.
Coaches on board
UMass coach Greg Carvel, who serves as the head of the coaching body for the league, said the coaches were pushing for all the teams to be included in the playoffs.
“Especially now with three on three overtime and shootouts, that standings were going to determined by those kind of situations,” said Carvel. “So we felt it was only fair that all teams make the playoffs, so I’m happy about that.”
Northeastern coach Jim Madigan liked the move as well.
“For me, all teams making the playoffs makes sense. we don’t know how many games we’re going to be playing,” said Madigan. “It gives everyone an opportunity in a really unique situation.”
A plunge for Roy
Former Boston University star Sammy Davis, now a rookie with the Boston Pride of the NWHL is raising money for the Travis Roy Foundation by donating the profits from her jersey and shirsey sales to the foundation this season. The goal was to raise $2,400 in 24 days, in honor of Travis and the number he wore at BU.
“I picked that number because I thought it was going to be hard to get that in 24 days,” Davis told The Ice Garden.
But the total was achieved in just five days. Davis then upped the ante to $5,000, which she also reached. Now, she is shooting for $8,000. On Dec. 1, she began to do a polar plunge each day for 24 days. Her Pride teammates have begun joining in, and on Saturday the whole team, as well as Bruins forward and Walpole native Chris Wagner, will take the plunge at New Silver Beach in Falmouth at 11 a.m. Anyone looking to contribute can either check out the Boston Pride’s Pro Shop at https://www.bostonpridehockey.com/ or donate directly to the foundation at http://www.travisroyfoundation.org/sammyswims/.
Follow Andrew Mahoney on Twitter @GlobeMahoney.