Penn State Hockey: Start of College Hockey Season Delayed Across All Conferences
The Hockey Commissioners Association, which represents the 11 Division I men’s and women’s hockey conferences, announced on Thursday afternoon that the start of the 2020-21 season will be delayed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“The eleven Division I men’s and women’s ice hockey conferences, represented by the Hockey Commissioners Association (HCA), are committed to providing memorable competitive experiences for our student-athletes during the upcoming season," a statement by the organization reads.
"The conferences have been working together on plans to return with a focus on the health and safety of everyone associated with 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 details on game schedules, including the start dates, individually. We look forward to our players and fans enjoying the college hockey experience this season.”
The announcement was not entirely unexpected following ongoing reporting that the sport was leaning towards delaying its opening weekend and the season at-large. Traditionally college hockey begins its competition in early October, technically less than a month away from Thursday's decision. Official practices begin shortly before the season, although the entire Nittany Lion roster is already on campus and already skating during unofficial on-ice sessions.
While the HCA has yet to announce any formal plans for a return to play in the future, the general belief within hockey circles is that the sport would like to synchronize its season with the start of college basketball. That sport has yet to announce any changes to its upcoming season, although there is a growing anticipation that college basketball will also look different for the 2020-21 campaign.
Locally, Penn State hockey had not yet announced a schedule, although its out of conference clash with North Dakota in Nashville and already been postponed to next season. It's unclear at this time if the now delayed season would resume with previously scheduled games or operate with conference-only play as sports in the fall across the Big Ten and other conferences have opted to do.
A conference-only schedule would likely modify the postseason requirements for the 16-team field.
In either case the delay is yet another strange hurdle for a Penn State men's hockey program coming off of a Big Ten regular season title and a 2019-20 campaign that ended prior to the NCAA Tournament. Penn State was set to host an NCAA Tournament regional in Allentown, and would have played in front of that Penn State partial crowd.
On the ice the Nittany Lions enter something of a transition year, welcoming eight freshmen and one grad transfer to the fold for the upcoming season.
Whenever the season returns, Penn State will hope it is sooner rather than later, the Nittany Lions one of just three programs on campus to run cash-positive, although with almost certainly limited attendance those revenue streams are likely to be impacted significantly either way.