The National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) finalized its plans for the 2020-21 season. The 26-game conference schedule and two-part format, which includes utilizing a centralized location (i.e. bubble) for all NCHC games to start the season, was unanimously approved by the NCHC’s Board of Directors on Thursday, Oct. 15.
NCHC teams have been divided into two divisions based on geography for 2020-21 scheduling purposes: East and West. The East Division consists of Miami, Minnesota Duluth, St. Cloud State and Western Michigan. The West Division consists of Colorado College, Denver, North Dakota and Omaha. Teams will play each of their divisional opponents six times (18 games total) and each cross-division opponent twice (8 games total), with all cross-division games taking place in the Pod to alleviate travel. The second portion of the season will then take place January through March, with all divisional foes playing each other at home and on the road.
“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 season will begin on Dec. 1 in the Pod, which will take place in Omaha, Nebraska, where the University of Nebraska Omaha’s Baxter Arena will host all eight NCHC teams. Competition in the Pod will include 10 games per team (40 games total) and run through the first three weeks of December, with games held throughout each week. In addition to the cross-division games at Baxter Arena, each team will also play two games against one divisional foe in the Pod.
Overall medical support and COVID-19 testing for all participating student-athletes, staff and officials in the Pod will be conducted through the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC), located in Omaha. Medical protocols and testing strategies for the entire season are currently being developed with top medical professionals from UNMC and the Global Center for Health Security.
“NCHC Presidents and Chancellors have been committed to finding ways for our student-athletes to return to the ice safely. We believe this plan accomplishes that,” said Greg Crawford, Miami University President and Chair of the NCHC Board of Directors. “On behalf of our Board of Directors, I want to thank the leadership of Dr. Jeffrey Gold at the University of Nebraska Omaha and University of Nebraska Medical Center for providing their institutional resources and medical expertise toward helping the Conference start the season successfully.”
The second portion of the conference slate will begin in the New Year and take place in all home NCHC venues. Following a break after the Pod, all eight teams will resume play the first weekend in January with weekend series through the conclusion of the scheduled regular season on March 5-6.