Last summer, Jody Hodgson said UND would only play its destination game in Nashville if there were no COVID-19 restrictions.
Hodgson, the general manager of Ralph Engelstad Arena, wasn't going to pick and choose which of the estimated 17,500 ticket holders got to attend the event, and he didn't think it would be wise to hold the game if it couldn't be done right.
"We are going to make sure it is the type of event experience everyone wants and we seek to provide," Hodgson said last summer.
UND ultimately backed up the game one year, but now, it is confident the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game against Penn State in Nashville's Bridgestone Arena will be played with full capacity and no restrictions.
The Metro Public Health Department in Nashville lifted COVID-19 restrictions last week, opening the door for full capacity for the Oct. 30 event.
UND sent out a release Friday morning to confirm the game. It also said a limited number of tickets are available.
“I couldn’t be more pleased to confirm our Nashville game next season,” UND coach Brad Berry said. “The pandemic has taken a toll on everyone and I can’t wait for us to gather in Nashville with the most passionate and loyal fan base in all of college hockey. The Nashville destination game is going to be a great return to normalcy for all of us."
UND also is expecting to have full capacity crowds for its home games beginning this fall.
COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths have dropped nationwide and in North Dakota as vaccines have been rolled out. According to the New York Times, 48 percent of Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
Friday marked the first day since July 8, 2020 that there were no new COVID-19 positive tests in Grand Forks County.
The Nashville game
UND has been playing destination games every other season and they've continually grown in popularity.
In 2016, it played against Boston College in New York City's Madison Square Garden. UND brought roughly 8,000 fans to Manhattan for that game and beat the Eagles 4-3. In 2018, it played against rival Minnesota in Las Vegas' Orleans Arena. That game instantly sold out about 7,500 seats and UND won 3-1.
The 2021 game in Nashville will be the biggest to date.
Event organizers blocked off 2,500 hotel rooms for UND fans, planned two pregame parties and successfully lobbied airlines to provide extra flights to and from North Dakota to help transport the fan base for the game.