Tired of COVID-19 yet? I know I am, but the news still needs to be delivered to you no matter what it is.
With the University of Alabama Huntsville cancelling the mens ice hockey program, I decided to dig a little deeper into what is happening at the NCAA level. NCAA sports are likely to closely resemble or mirror what happens in other amateur sports.
The first clue beyond UAH cancelling the program comes from Holy Cross University. Holy Cross mens ice hockey has just cancelled a trip to play Arizona State this season citing budget crunches due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Digging a little deeper, other NCAA coaches have confirmed that many schools are looking to cancel non conference games that require significant levels of travel.
Thinking about this, it not only saves money on flights, but it keeps players out of hotels and other public areas. All done to reduce risk of exposure to COVID-19.
NCAA football programs at the division one level are now openly talking about playing games without fans, or roughly 12% capacity in stadiums.
NCAA Division II programs were directed to cut the amount of fall competitions by roughly 30%. No decisions have been made concerning attendance by fans. Coaches have said though they expect limited or no fans allowed.
The reduction in number of D2 contests allows for schools to accelerate the season and begin earlier, or delay the season.
NCAA Division 1 football also gives us some clues. On Wednesday they voted to allow some sports to resume on campus activities. This piece of information stuck out to me though;
“The minimum football-game-attendance requirement for Football Bowl Subdivision schools will be set aside for two years. Normally, once every two years on a rolling basis, FBS schools must average at least 15,000 in “actual or paid” attendance for all home football games. This will help schools that may have to play games without fans or with limited attendance or where attendance might be affected by the pandemic.”
Clearly football is expecting to see reduced attendance, if not voluntary then due to State and Federal regulations.
What can we understand from these rule changes? I think we can all easily see that there will be changes to hockey programs at the NCAA level. I think its safe to say that reduced fans, or no fans is not just possible but likely.
The NCAA has already said if there are no students on campus there are no NCAA sports being played. California has already cancelled some seasons completely. While its not expected that some traditional hockey States will order seasons cancelled, it is likely that many will be shortened, and they may begin at different times of the year.
We could also expect to see a start, stop and restart season. Caution will be the name of the game with NCAA hockey. This begs the question, what about junior hockey?
The clues are out there. Several CCHL coaches or staff have now publicly said they will likely start in late August. One publicly said they are only interested in 5 on 5 hockey or they wont play. Could 4 on 4 be an option to reduce contact and lower potential risk for infection?
Other leagues are openly saying that they can not play without fans in the buildings.
While Hockey Canada has said they will rely on Provincial and Federal Government guidance. Haven’t the Premiers of each Province already stated it is unlikely that groups of 50 or more will return any time soon?
While Hockey Canada may open the Hockey Canada Registry, that does not mean anything regarding when the season in Canada will start or if Americans can go.
None of my American clients will be signing contracts in Canada until a clear rule is announced publicly, and all of them will sign backup plan contracts in the United States and Europe.
How would it be explained to a player who signs in June that in September he is told he cant come and now has lost all other opportunity? Or that the season wont start until January and he is just out of luck when it comes to playing someplace else without delays?
USA Hockey on the other hand has been silent, yet still moving forward with summer showcase events. Each State will determine who plays with or without fans.
I took a lot of heat from Canada last week for speaking the truth. The truth is out there in many different news reports. Anyone thinking or saying its going to be business as usual in junior hockey that requires fan support has zero perception of reality or is simply trying to line their bank accounts.
Joseph Kolodziej – Adviser