College hockey season is underway, but eight teams have opted out
It had been 250 days since Bemidji State and Lake Superior State left the ice in Bemidji's Sanford Center on a Sunday night in March, the last college hockey game before the coronavirus pandemic brought sports to a screeching halt.
But an unconventional offseason full of Zoom calls, meetings with health and safety experts and leagues discussing return to play protocols finally gave way to game action Friday night.
Notre Dame hosted Wisconsin in the first college hockey game of the season in a nearly empty Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend, Ind.
Wisconsin won the nationally televised game 2-0.
Two more games are scheduled for Saturday: Wisconsin-Notre Dame and Michigan-Arizona State.
Next weekend, there will be even more.
But it also became clear this week that it will not be an ordinary season.
Eight of 61 men's college hockey teams announced this week that they will not compete in 2020-21.
The six Ivy League schools -- Harvard, Cornell, Yale, Dartmouth, Princeton and Brown -- jointly announced they're not playing. College Hockey News reported that Yale had played every year since 1898, the longest run of any college hockey program.
The Ivy schools play in the 12-team ECAC, which is now down to six. There are also questions whether RPI will play after its star player, goalie Owen Savory, entered the transfer portal this week.
The ECAC is college hockey's only conference yet to release a schedule.
Two other schools also said they won't play.
One is RIT, which plays in the 11-team Atlantic Hockey.
The other is Alaska Anchorage, which plays in the 10-team Western Collegiate Hockey Association. Alaska Anchorage announced earlier this fall that it will disband its program after this season. So, barring any change, the Seawolves have played their final college hockey game.
In a press release Friday, the WCHA said league members have until Tuesday to inform the conference whether they intend to play this season.
The University of Alaska (Fairbanks) may have significant challenges in pulling off a season without Anchorage, which it was scheduled to play six times, and with the state's quarantine rules for visitors.
College hockey already had its first postponements, too.
Army was scheduled to play Long Island University on Saturday night. It would have been the first Division-I game for LIU, which unexpectedly managed to launch a Division-I program amidst the pandemic. But because of COVID-19 issues, Army called off that game as well as a Nov. 20 game against Holy Cross.
UND to open Dec. 2
The National Collegiate Hockey Conference is college hockey's only league that's attempting a bubble-like setup to start the season.
All eight member programs are expected to be in Omaha between Dec. 1-20 to play 40 total games (10 per team).
UND's first game is scheduled for Dec. 2 against Miami. The Fighting Hawks will play two games against Miami, Western Michigan, Minnesota Duluth, St. Cloud State and Denver during the NCHC Pod.