Major college hockey has been postponed indefinitely because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the 11 Division I conferences announced Thursday.

“Due to the impact COVID-19 continues to have around the country and within higher education, the start of competition for the Division I college hockey season has been delayed,” the leagues said in a joint statement released by the Hockey Commissioners Association.

The decision affects Minnesota’s men’s and women’s teams in the WCHA, Big Ten and NCHC, including Bemidji State, Minnesota, Minnesota Duluth, Minnesota State Mankato and St. Cloud State, as well as the University of Wisconsin.

“From day one, our discussions have centered around providing our student-athletes safe, meaningful competition opportunities,” WCHA Women’s League Commissioner Jennifer Flowers said in a statement. “While our desire was to begin the season as scheduled, our Board and the leadership at our member institutions recognize that is not an option given the current climate.”

The Gophers men’s program is celebrating its 100th season in 2020-21. The Gophers were scheduled to play host to Bemidji State on Oct. 3 in their season opener.

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“Clearly everyone in college hockey wanted to be playing games next month, but we knew this delay was likely to happen and the health and safety of our student-athletes is what’s most important,” Gophers men’s coach Bob Motzko said. “We all believe there is a path forward and look for that to come soon. The good thing is that this delay will not affect our team’s preparation for when we do start the season. We’re confident that day will come, and we will be ready to compete when it does.”

Gophers women’s coach Brad Frost agreed.

“While we are disappointed that the start of our season is delayed, we trust in our leadership to make the best decisions for the health and safety of our student-athletes,” he said. “When the time comes to drop the puck, I can promise that we will be ready.”

According to the hockey commissioners, conferences will announce plans for the season individually.

The Big Ten postponed all fall sports on Aug. 19. On July 28, the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference postponed fall competition in cross country, football, soccer, and volleyball, and the conference pushed winter sports back until at least the new year.

Coronavirus cases have skyrocketed on college campuses throughout the country since schools began welcoming students back over the past several weeks. As of Thursday afternoon, 191,360 Americans have died from COVID-19, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University, and 905,470 worldwide.

“The health and safety of all involved across the campus communities, particularly our student-athletes, is the top priority,” NCHC Commissioner Josh Fenton said in a statement. “We fully expect NCHC hockey to be back this season. … This delay affords us valuable time to continue formulating plans to start the season successfully.”

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