The central office of the Big Ten Conference announced yesterday that the 2020-21 ice hockey season will begin as early as Nov. 13, 2020. The Big Ten Conference’s ice hockey teams include University of Michigan, Michigan State University, University of Minnesota, University of Notre Dame, The Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University and University of Wisconsin. The season is set to include 24 in-conference games as well as four games per school against the independent Arizona State University Sun Devils. These ASU games will be held exclusively at home for the Big Ten teams to eliminate excessive travel to Arizona from conference members. With Arizona State being this interwoven into the Big Ten for the season, it could open the doors for a permanent inclusion of the team, dashing all hopes of the team’s inclusion in other conferences like the Hockey East.
Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said of the decision, “The 2020-21 hockey season builds on the rich traditions of Big Ten Hockey and brings new competitive opportunities to the Conference with the Arizona State University scheduling agreement. As our teams return to competition, we will continue to keep the health and safety of our student-athletes at the forefront of our decisions.”
There are going to be changes to the 2021 Big Ten Hockey Tournament, with the rules being the same as the first four years of the tournament’s running. It will be a single weekend, single elimination tournament featuring all seven of the conference teams. The tournament is set to be held between March 18 and 20, with six games over the weekend. Three games on the 18th, two on the 19th, and the championship game being played on the 20th.
The Big Ten Return to Competition Task Force has developed protocols for the conference to allow it to return to play for fall semester sports and the league’s ice hockey teams will be expected to follow this same plan. This will include daily antigen testing and advanced cardiac screening, as well as data sharing between universities. Arizona State administrators have agreed to follow Big Ten protocol and adhere to the same testing standards.