As Brad Elliott Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald reported Monday, the National Collegiate Hockey Conference is looking into the viability of using a hub city to ensure all eight teams play a good amount of hockey — in the neighborhood of 10 games in a span of three weeks — before the New Year.
In 2021, the plan is still for each team to host games. An announcement on all or part of the preparations is expected in the next few weeks.
In meetings, “The tone has been, ‘Let’s stay focused on what we’re here to do, and that’s to make sure that we can try to provide a season to a group of student-athletes that deserve it,’” NCHC commissioner Josh Fenton told The Gazette in August.
Testing capacity, of course, remains crucial.
Colorado College’s Block 4 ends Dec. 16 and classes don’t resume until Jan. 3. It stands to reason the players would have to wrap up Block 4 remotely or make some other academic allowance.
Grand Forks and Omaha are the leading contenders to host. Both have two sheets of ice. Fan attendance appears unlikely.
Some pros and cons in each city’s favor:
- Has the benefit of being 11 hours away at most from every other team in the NCHC.
- Baxter Arena is only five years old.
- Regularly hosts big sporting events, including the College World Series and Olympic Swim Trials, with hotels and amenities nearby.
- Nearby University of Nebraska Medical Center is a leader in studying and treating infectious diseases. It has the country's only federal quarantine unit. Not that it’s likely to be needed, but comforting.
- The rates of new cases in North Dakota is higher. According to the CDC website, in the past week Nebraska had 4,575 new cases and North Dakota had 3,875, respectively. Nebraska had more than twice North Dakota’s population of 762,062 as of last year.
- On-campus Ralph Engelstad Arena is a widely praised facility, built in 2001 and renovated recently.
- As Schlossman pointed out, The Ralph has hosted a pair of high-profile, 10-team tournaments in the IIHF World Junior Championship and the IIHF World Under-18 Championship.