UND will open the 2020-21 hockey season where the last one ended: Omaha's Baxter Arena.
The other seven National Collegiate Hockey Conference teams will be there, too.
The NCHC announced Friday that the season will start Dec. 1 in Omaha. All eight teams will be there to play 10 games each (40 total games) in a three-week span to launch the season.
The NCHC is calling it a "Pod."
In the NCHC Pod, UND will play eight of its 10 games against opponents considered in the Eastern part of the league -- Minnesota Duluth, St. Cloud State, Miami and Western Michigan. The Fighting Hawks then won't play any of those teams during the second part of the season. They'll also play two games against Colorado College or Denver in the Pod.
The second-half portion of the season will begin in January. Those 16 games will be played at regular home sites. UND's games will be exclusively against Omaha, Denver and Colorado College.
The NCHC schedule, in all, will be 26 games. That's two more than in a usual season.
“Throughout the past eight months we have learned to adjust and think creatively about how we live our personal and professional lives,” NCHC commissioner Josh Fenton said. “I’m proud of our membership for their entrepreneurial spirit to build a concept grounded in health and safety that we believe gives a group of deserving student-athletes the best opportunity to conduct a successful season.”
The NCHC also considered putting the Pod in Grand Forks, but ultimately chose Omaha.
Fenton said numerous factors were considered when choosing the site -- which came down to a vote of member institutions -- but coronavirus testing protocols and medical support topped the list, followed by financial considerations and market and venue infrastructure.
When asked whether local coronavirus numbers were a major consideration, Fenton said every time league members spoke, data was presented. But Fenton acknowledged that the Pod location decision was made on Oct. 15 and the Pod won't begin until Dec. 1, and numbers could completely change by then.
Inside the Pod
The league is still hammering out details of the NCHC Pod such as what players will be allowed to do outside of the arena and whether fans or family will be allowed to attend.
But other logistics are being set up.
Fenton said they will play no more than two games per day on weekdays and no more than three games per day on weekends. There's a chance they could leave one specific day open each week, too. All games will be staggered at Baxter Arena.
All games will be available on NCHC.tv. Fenton said he anticipates TV partners having an interest in them, too. Midco Sports Network, which broadcasts all of UND's home games each season, will likely be in Omaha for the games. CBS Sports Network, the league's national TV partner, could be there, too.
In Omaha, the players will be regularly tested for COVID-19 by The University of Nebraska Medical Center. UNMC will be developing protocols for testing all season long, too.
“Given the myriad challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has created, this unique approach to scheduling should optimize the chances for a safe and successful hockey season,” said Trev Alberts, Omaha’s Vice Chancellor for Athletics. “We have a great partner in the University of Nebraska Medical Center, who will help us take all of the necessary steps to ensure the health and safety of the student-athletes, coaches and staff in the Pod. We know it will be a busy three weeks, but our staff is very excited to make this a marquee event for the NCHC and college hockey.”
The NCHC said schedules in the Pod will take into account class obligations.
According to the league, "With the Pod taking place during the first three weeks of December, some NCHC member institutions will have already completed fall semester classes, while other member schools will be offering the majority of their classes through remote learning during that time. Any academic support needed by student-athletes while in the Pod will be provided by University of Nebraska Omaha staff. Game schedules in the Pod will be created with each school’s final examination period in mind, limiting teams’ competition schedule during a school’s scheduled final exam week."