Denver, Miami

Denver and Miami meet for the opening faceoff during the first period in an NCAA college hockey game of the inaugural National Collegiate Hockey Conference tournament championship title, Saturday, March 22, 2014, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Tom Olmscheid)

On Thursday college hockey players and fans saw their hopes not dashed, but delayed.

The Hockey Commissioners Association announced that the start of competition for the 2020-21 Division I season will be pushed back.

When the news came, nothing was even approaching normal at Colorado College. Coach Mike Haviland said the Tigers can practice in groups of seven, but only have enough available players for one group because the rest have been quarantined in their dorms for nearly two weeks due to COVID-19 outbreaks.

Through it all, they had to prepare for the first week of October until they heard otherwise. Now the Tigers have a new, tentative target date of Nov. 20.

It would have sounded crazy last fall.

“It’s a new world that we live in,” Haviland said. “Our guys have been great, have been flexible. Their health and safety is the biggest thing.”

As it stands, National Collegiate Hockey Conference competition will take place, but not until Nov. 20 at the earliest. That includes CC. Air Force's Atlantic Hockey Association posted a short statement indicating that planning continues.

The Springs-based NCHC announced Thursday that it “anticipates” competition will resume in November or later. The NCHC Board of Directors approved the move Tuesday, according to a league release.

“We fully expect NCHC hockey to be back this season,” commissioner Josh Fenton said in the release. “As COVID-19 continues to have an impact on higher education, we have an obligation to host athletic competitions in a safe and responsible manner. We are committed to doing everything we conceivably can to provide competitive experiences that our student-athletes deserve.

“This delay affords us valuable time to continue formulating plans to start the season successfully.”

Bolstered by professional leagues returning to play and even welcoming fans, there’s been a collective shift toward the optimistic. Haviland noticed it, but knows it could all change at any moment.

“It could change tomorrow. It could change next week. We have to live with that,” Haviland said.

“I have seen some glimpses, but I also know we’ve got just to plan for Nov. 20 now, or later, and go from there.”

He’s been on weekly calls, hearing what the NCAA and other conferences are thinking. Though each conference will announce plans individually, the HCA announcement gave the appearance of a united front.

“It’s good to see it all come out at the same time, that all the commissioners are talking,” Haviland said. “This announcement coming out and showing that we’re all together is important.”

Colorado College series against Maine Oct. 9-10, Union Oct. 16-17 and Michigan State Oct. 23-24, plus two conference weekends against Miami and St. Cloud State, won’t go forward as scheduled if the plan holds. A late-November series against Princeton was already taken off the schedule when the Ivy League announced its plans to hold all sports until at least Jan. 1.

The NCHC said multiple scheduling models and start dates are being considered. Specific details will be released later.

The announcement all but assured the players won’t get a complete season, but CC will take as many games as it can get.

For now the Colorado College coaching staff will focus on the day-to-day - until Saturday when quarantine ends, until Oct. 3 when ice time is no longer limited, until Nov. 20 when they might be able to play again, all assuming the situation doesn’t worsen.

Following protocols. Staying fresh.

“I’m optimistic that we get some hockey in. I really am,” Haviland said, adding he hopes it’s without pauses. “And hopefully we can have our great fans watching with us.”

Colorado College hockey players allowed to stay on campus as school shifts classes online
NCHC commissioner says league mulling options as scheduled start approaches
Springs Spotlight: NCHC commissioner Josh Fenton
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