While most of us have been focused on the return of pro sports and whether seasons played outside a bubble are going to be doable, college sports face an even more uncertain future in 2020. Many schools and some conferences have already canceled or postponed fall sports, though the biggest domino -- college football -- remains standing for now.
Locally, some hope surfaced Wednesday for the most popular college conference in New England, as Hockey East announced it intends to play a 2020-21 season.
What, exactly, that season looks like remains to be seen, an uncertainty the league acknowledges in its statement. A start date has not yet been determined and what the schedule looks like will be flexible until that start date is decided, and even after that pending situations that force changes.
But the plan calls for a focus on playing league games, rather than out-of-conference games, for both men's and women's hockey, which will allow the league "to make significant and often difficult decisions in real time that will protect the health and safety of all parties involved in the administration of the conference schedule."
The plan also notes that the league's geography -- with all 11 teams on the men's side and all 10 on the women's side located in New England -- will allow the league "to conduct conference competition, including the men's and women's championships, while mitigating non-essential travel and allowing maximum flexibility to adjust its schedule based on ever-changing developments and best medical practices surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic."
The 2019-20 college hockey season was cut short by coronavirus, with conference tournaments and the NCAA tournament unable to be completed.
What happens with college hockey on a national level, including in regards to a potential NCAA tournament, remains to be seen, but Hockey East is at least aiming to play its conference regular season and hopefully conference tournament.
The college hockey season normally begins in early October and features 34 regular-season games, with Hockey East teams playing 24 conference games. Conference tournaments usually begin in March, followed by the NCAA tournament wrapping up with the Frozen Four in early April.