CANTON, N.Y. (WWNY) - It’s been a tradition for the Clarkson and St. Lawrence Men’s Hockey teams. Before they kick off their regular seasons, each school would play an exhibition game against a college team from across the border. But this year COVID-19 has changed that.
Most Canadian universities have decided to postpone the start of their sports seasons until at least January 2021, taking those exhibition games off the table for the Saints and the Golden Knights.
”The one thing we always can do and that’s something certain teams will do: You can play those exhibition games any time of the season, so you don’t have to play them the opening weekend which you know is more typical. That opening weekend seems to be an ease into the season, knock the rust off by playing a Canadian university as an exhibition, but you still have access to play that at any time. So I think some teams will look to probably play that exhibition game in the 2nd half of the year after January 1st,” said Brent Brekke, the St. Lawrence Men’s Hockey coach.
One of the options the NCAA is looking at to fill that void for teams like St. Lawrence and Clarkson is allowing the schools to face off against another Division 1 opponent in a game that would count as an exhibition.
”They are giving some COVID exemptions right now to have exhibition games against other college teams. We have to look into that, inquire to see what the possibilities are with that, see if teams want to play with that exhibition game that’s a non-countable game for the NCAA. So there’s still some logistics to work out on that, but there is talk about having that capability to play another college team in a game that doesn’t count towards your R.P.I. and pairwise, just run as an exhibition,” said Casey Jones, the Clarkson Men’s Hockey coach.
Both Brekke and Jones have rosters dotted with players from Canada. And while the Canadian border remains closed until at least late July, both coaches say that shouldn’t affect those student athletes returning to campus for the fall semester to continue their education and play hockey.
”What we’ve been told as of right now, the kids from Canada are actually, education is considered essential travel. So the indication we’ve been given as of right now, they’re gonna be allowed to cross the border because education is considered essential,” said Brekke.
But a bigger dilemma for both programs is getting the international players they have on their rosters back to school not only in time for the fall semester, but in time to suit up and hit the ice.
”Yeah, that’s probably the biggest concern for the players coming over from Europe and all that. We have one coming, Tommy Pasanen coming from Germany. It’s probably the biggest concern seeing what’s going to open up and how you have to get in and to get isolated and all that,” said Jones.
”‘Cause we have 3 kids from Europe and one in Finland and 2 in Sweden and their countries are actually part of a travel ban. So for those kids to get to the United States, they actually have to travel to countries they’re allowed to go to and quarantine there and then come to the United States. So it’s an interesting dynamic. We had the discussion yesterday with one of our, you know, one of our players that’s in that situation saying ‘hey, you know, you may have to go to Croatia or Serbia for 2 weeks and quarantine there and then come to the United States from one of those countries and quarantine here for 2 weeks.‘” said Brekke.
Unique situations neither team has had to face, hoping to find answers and solutions before the puck drops in October.
While most Division 1 college football programs are back on campus conducting workouts, that’s not the case for Division 3 teams like the St. Lawrence Saints.
Coach Dan Puckhaber says he’s been told the earliest a Division 3 program can be on campus is August 10th. The original day the Saints were to report for workouts leading up to the 2020 season.
While that may not seem like a big deal, for the Saints and other D-3 football programs that poses a big problem. Since under COVID-19 guidelines, practice can only be conducted in groups of 10 for the first 14 days.
Which means the first time the Saints could practice as a team would be August 24th- just 12 days before their season opener scheduled for Friday, September 4th at home against Utica College.
”For us, we would have to have 13 different practices each day. Which means, now the good thing is we have the space so we could have 10 on one field, 10 on another practice field and 10 in another area. So you get 3 of them done at once, but we basically would have to look at it like it’s O.T.A.‘s in the NFL. So it’s just- you’re gonna see guys in baseball caps and big brimmed hats out there just being athletic and trying to get a little bit better and then hopefully we can start to introduce pads like day 15, day 16 which, you know, that’s completely different than anything we’ve ever done,” said Puckhaber.