BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji State men’s and women’s hockey teams have reworked their 2020-21 schedules due to the coronavirus pandemic.
College hockey programs are scraping long-distance nonconference trips due to uncertainty regarding the pandemic and a desire to save on travel expenses.
The Beaver men have pushed back an East Coast trip to Merrimack and UMass-Lowell over Thanksgiving weekend, and replaced it with a home game against the University of Minnesota. For the BSU women, most of their nonconference schedule has been called off.
“With the cost of flying out there, let’s postpone it a couple years,” Bemidji State men’s head coach Tom Serratore said of the East Coast series. “Almost everybody is canceling their nonconference flights.”
The Beavers will instead host the Gophers in a single game Nov. 28 at the Sanford Center. The schools are set to open the season with a game in Minneapolis Oct. 3. Minnesota hasn’t visited Bemidji since October 2013.
“It makes fiscal sense and it reduces wear and tear on your players,” Serratore said.
Though neither BSU or the Western Collegiate Hockey Association have released their 2020-21 women’s hockey schedules, six of the Beavers’ 10 nonconference games have been called off.
Bemidji State had been scheduled to compete in a Thanksgiving tournament in Washington, D.C., alongside Dartmouth, Syracuse and St. Cloud State. The tournament has not yet officially been canceled, though the Beavers will no longer make the trip and neither will St. Cloud State.
BSU would have played the two eastern schools in the tournament. The Ivy League, of which Dartmouth is a member, has canceled all sports until at least Jan. 1.
“With what happened at the end of last year, what enrollment is looking like -- budgets all across the country are not nearly what they would have been,” Bemidji State women’s head coach Jim Scanlan said. “And so we’re all trying to do our part in how can we help the university. That was one way we thought we could help. That was a $40-50,000 trip potentially.”
Women’s hockey series in Bemidji against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Sept. 25-26) and Penn State (Jan. 8-9) have been canceled due to the schools not wanting to travel.
RPI, which is Division III for all sports except hockey, canceled its fall sports season last month.
The Beavers’ nonconference series at Lindenwood on Oct. 16-17 is still planned as of now since a trip to Missouri is feasible by bus. The nonconference Minnesota Cup tournament, which is scheduled to be hosted by Minnesota State Mankato on Jan. 8-9, also remains on the schedule. The Minnesota Cup was originally to be played Jan. 1-2.
Though college hockey is a winter sport, the season usually begins in late September or early October.
“I think the chances of playing in September are probably pretty slim,” Scanlan said.
“We’re discussing everything right now,” Serratore added. “We’re planning for Oct. 3, but obviously again, like anything, there better be a contingency plan.”
Division I conferences have begun canceling fall sports, including the Ivy League and the Patriot League, while the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference has suspended fall sports indefinitely. Big Ten and Pac-12 fall sports will play conference-only schedules.
Other conferences are expected to make decisions in the next few weeks.
College hockey leagues may need to adjust their seasons as well. Programs may end up playing games against mostly conference or regional opponents.
“There’s been a lot of talk about can we start in November or should we wait until January,” Scanlan said. “There’s just a lot of questions that need to be answered before we can start really planning on what our season will look like. I think it’s pretty safe to say it’s going to be primarily a conference schedule.”
Both Scanlan and Serratore said that what happens with college football will influence how the hockey season unfolds.
“We’re not going to know anything until we know what’s going to happen with college football,” Serratore said.
WCHA women’s league members Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio State all field Big Ten football teams.
“Certainly football, especially the Big Ten schools, that’s kind of where everyone is really keeping an eye out,” Scanlan said. “If football doesn’t go, that’s going to be not a good omen for us, particularly those Big Ten schools.”