Ralph Engelstad Arena reopens for voluntary workouts

Jacob Bernard-Docker is among a group of players currently in Grand Forks.

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UND hockey fans file into Ralph Engelstad Arena for the final regular-season hockey game in Grand Forks. According to a report by NHL insider Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, one idea the NHL is tossing around as a way to finish out the 2019-20 season is to play remaining regular season and playoff games in Ralph Engelstad Arena. Nick Nelson / Forum News Service

It's not quite the same as usual.

UND hockey players cannot come and go in Ralph Engelstad Arena as they please.

Their key cards are not activated. They must come during a previously scheduled time. When they arrive, they have to get their temperatures checked.

But a first step toward normalcy amid the coronavirus pandemic occurred this week for the UND hockey team as The Ralph reopened for voluntary workouts.

"It definitely feels good," UND defenseman Jacob Bernard-Docker said. "I think after two-some months by myself, being back in the gym and getting the tunes going is definitely fun."


It marked the first time UND players were allowed to be in The Ralph in more than two months.

"It almost felt like I never left," Bernard-Docker said of returning. "It's been really good to be back and see Pooly (athletic trainer Mark Poolman) and some of the guys and get a normal schedule going."

UND athletic director Bill Chaves said the school has set out parameters for each facility to reopen, including wellness checks and proper distancing in weight rooms. The NCAA recently cleared schools to do so beginning June 1.

"We need to make sure we schedule everything," Chaves said. "We need to know exactly who is in the building and when. Ultimately, there's a timeframe that needs to be factored in, because we're going to need the right personnel in the building to make sure protocols are being followed.

"There is one access point. A wellness check is performed. As long as that checks out, they can proceed."

Poolman is responsible for wellness checks of the men's hockey players.


Although The Ralph has reopened, most UND players are scattered across the country. Many are back home. Some are in pre-planned spots for summer workouts.

Bernard-Docker spent some time at home in Alberta this spring before returning to Grand Forks. When Bernard-Docker was in Alberta, he worked out at home.

"Obviously, you try to do the best you can," Bernard-Docker said. "I have a brother and sister at home who are both super active, so we kept each other motivated."

UND is in the process of opening up all of its facilities for voluntary workouts.

Choice Health and Fitness (men's and women's tennis), King's Walk (men's and women's golf) and Ralph Engelstad Arena (men's hockey and soccer) reopened last week.

The Betty Engelstad Sioux Center (men's and women's basketball, volleyball) reopened Monday.

Chaves said he is hoping that Hyslop Sports Center, the High Performance Center and Memorial Stadium can reopen by next week.

"We felt the best way to approach it was to take a look at each facility and stagger this in. . . start dipping our toe in the water and learn along the way with some protocols that need to be altered instead of completely opening all of the facilities June 1," Chaves said.


Chaves also said that, as of Monday, no games have been canceled or altered for any sports in 2020-21.

"We're going ahead as scheduled," Chaves said.

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at
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