The big party that was planned for Nashville this October won't happen as scheduled.
The 2020 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game between UND and Penn State, which sold out the 17,159-seat Bridgestone Arena, is going to be scrapped and potentially moved to a future year, according to multiple sources.
An official announcement, with more details, is expected by the end of the week.
Last month, Ralph Engelstad Arena general manager Jody Hodgson, the lead organizer of the Nashville event, said UND won't do the game if the coronavirus pandemic forces restrictions, including limiting fan attendance.
With no promise that the game is going to be allowed to have 100 percent capacity, it won't go off as previously scheduled. The game was originally slated for Oct. 17.
The idea to play a game in Nashville was a hit. UND quickly sold out the venue, which is located downtown and normally plays home to the NHL's Nashville Predators.
Event organizers blocked off 2,500 hotel rooms for UND fans, planned two pregame parties and successfully lobbied airlines to provide extra flights to and from North Dakota to help transport the fan base for the game.
A future game in Nashville?
Because of the popularity, organizers are already looking for a future date to play the game in Nashville.
UND would likely want to use the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game -- an exempt event that doesn't count against a team's 34-game regular-season schedule limit -- to play in Nashville.
UND and Ralph Engelstad Arena have the rights to the 2022 Hall of Fame Game. They were looking at the possibility of putting it in Las Vegas or Seattle before the pandemic hit.
If UND wanted to move the Nashville game to next season in 2021, it would likely have to buy the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game away from St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center, which currently owns the rights.
That move would not be unprecedented. In fact, UND did that last season, purchasing the Hall of Fame Game from the Xcel Energy Center for $100,000. The Fighting Hawks played it against Michigan Tech in Ralph Engelstad Arena in November and won 3-1.
UND has been playing destination games every other season and they've continually grown in popularity.
In 2016, it played against Boston College in New York City's Madison Square Garden. UND brought roughly 8,000 fans to Manhattan for that game and beat the Eagles 4-3.
In 2018, it played the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game against rival Minnesota in Las Vegas' Orleans Arena. That game instantly sold out about 7,500 seats and UND won 3-1 in front of a raucous, partisan crowd. Fighting Hawks fans from at least 44 states traveled to Vegas for that game.
Nashville would have been the biggest event yet.
Second change to the schedule
The change for the 2020 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game will mark the second known alteration to UND's 2020-21 schedule due to the pandemic.
Last week, the Ivy League announced member schools would not compete in any sporting events before Jan. 1. The Fighting Hawks were scheduled to play at Cornell on Oct. 30-31. It is unclear whether UND and Cornell are considering playing the series in the second half of the year or whether they'll make it up in another season.
A scheduling database has been created to help college hockey teams fill open dates that may arise due to cancellations.