After being cut short of a complete season last year, College hockey is set to return this weekend. The Big 10 will take the ice TONIGHT starting with Wisconsin vs. Notre Dame, followed by the Atlantic Hockey Association tomorrow, Hockey east on Nov. 20th, and then the NCHC (in their Omaha bubble) on Dec. 1st. The WCHA has plans to return, but will largely be played in 2021 and the ECAC schedules are up in the air with many still to be announced. Largely, this is great news for hockey fans across the country since the NHL won’t be back until at least January, but it’s not all sunshine and rainbows for every program.Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) who is a part of the Atlantic Hockey Association had their season abruptly cancelled by the administration on November 9th despite the fact that the rest of the teams within the conference still plan to play. The suits and university representatives didn’t even give their players enough time to try and contact anyone or come up with alternative solutions…less than a week before their first scheduled game and the rug was pulled out. The program and players are frustrated right now despite a lot of support online, including a petition that was set up for people to let their voices be heard. I know a lot of those petitions don’t go anywhere, but at this point everything helps.
The fact that you can just cut a D1 program like that at the drop of a hat without any notice to the players or coaches is downright SLIMY. It’s especially heinous when it’s coming from some over-paid administrators who have been leeching off of students going into debt for years. Much like the giant property management companies who refuse to give any breaks to the people who might be struggling. Universities across the country are cutting entire programs instead of letting this impact their own pockets or coming up with other creative solutions.
The End of the Road for Some?
In what might be the most crushing blow so far this season, The University of Alaska-Anchorage announced today that their season has been cancelled. With the university already planning to shut the hockey program down next year, this has likely put the final nail in the coffin of the Seawolves and prevented some of its returning players from ever taking the ice again. Althought it pales in comparison to that last statement, it also marks the end of the road for one of the greatest DI jerseys out there.The University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH) was notified that their program was scheduled to be cut as well. What makes this one a bigger gut-punch is that it really had nothing to do with COVID, but just a lack of effort by the administration to make it work. However, thanks to some active players and alumni, it has $1.7MM promised each year for the next 10 to temporarily save the program. Good guy (and new MN tendy) Cam Talbot is among the alumni donors; I was unsure of his signing at first, but a guy who loves the game enough to commit to it in that way is going to get my support.
SUNYAC is Feeling it Too
The SUNYAC had cancelled all of their winter sports, including hockey, in the middle of October, but their hockey teams aren’t giving up hope to salvage something. A group of student athletes within that conference have also come together and set up a petition as a last ditch effort to save their season. It should go without saying at this point, but that’s worth signing. They’re not a DI hockey conference, but if you can read Joe Kile’s letter to the committee and don’t understand what hockey means to the people who play it, you’ve got rocks for brains.
It’s Not All Bad News
With all of the hurdles and tough news mentioned above, there are some bright spots and positive signs of people willing to fight for a season. BU, Yale, UNH, and Dartmouth were all temporarily shut down or “paused” at some point in October due to cases spiking on campus or within the organization, but with careful oversight and planning they have been allowed to continue for the time being. There have been rumors floating around that the Beanpot may not be played this season, which is not only a blow to both programs involved, but to college hockey in general as it is one of the most nationally recognized games of the year. While that sucks, I’ll take some hockey over no hockey and I bet those players would too.
Long Island University (LIU) just established a brand new men’s hockey program after the success of their new women’s program last year. A smaller college doing the exact opposite of the trend we’ve seen with a lot of these other programs closing up shop is something I love to see. Yes, they’ve been dealt a shit hand with their first-ever collegiate game vs. Army being postponed due to Covid concerns at westpoint, but it’s only a matter of time before they take the ice and are allowed to compete.If Arizona State can bring an unknown program to the elite tier in just a few years, that is proof there is an untapped market for college hockey across the country, whether people want to believe it or not. It is just further evidence to me that if your hockey program is failing, maybe you need to look at making changes in your marketing team and not your hockey team.
This is the first time in history that College Hockey will have a remote opportunity at being center stage in the sports world and now some of these programs are having it cancelled. The one time you’re going to have the complete attention of the country (where it’s actually televised) and it’s being thrown away by people who don’t understand or want to put the effort in. I recently wrote about the ASU program and how they’re approaching the growth of hockey in a non-traditional market, and while I stand by everything I said, I’m glad they’re putting the effort it and seeing it succeed.
Some students were promised another year of eligibility following the calamity of last season, and now even if they were lucky enough to keep their scholarship, that’s not the reality. The choice by some institutions to cancel hockey (and lets not forget the other other winter programs) altogether is more of an indication of the administrations lack of effort to provide their students with opportunities than anything else. Yes I am aware that there are a lot of health concerns involved in these decisions as well. I do however find it weird that you don’t see D1 powerhouse programs cutting their cash cow in college football.
If you consider yourself a hockey fan, a fan of sports in general, or believe in the impact of the collegiate experience, do your part and take the (literal) 10 seconds to sign the petitions. Once you’ve done that, the best thing you can do is watch some great games, share it as much as you can, and be a part of helping save college hockey.
I’ve been hit by cars three times, which is an indication of how stubborn I am.
I write about everything across the board, but focus on Hockey and the pain that is Minnesota sports.
Argue with me on Twitter: @venividiveech