Before the new coronavirus (COVID-19) caught the world's attention, the woes of playoff travel seemed to be the worst-case scenario for some.
This crisis has surprised millions of people. Now, like everyone else, the winter sports leagues are trying to schedule news broadcasting every hour.
I don't think you can suddenly anticipate a global pandemic, said Steffan Waters, associate commissioner for Atlantic hockey, of which the Air Force is a member. I'm not sure you can think of anything like that.
Unless something drastic happens in the next two days before Robert Morris' visit to Sacred Heart, the Atlantic hockey quarter-finals will go according to plan and spectators will be allowed to attend. The National Collegiate Hockey Conference, which includes Colorado College, has not announced any fan-related changes.
Last weekend, AHA commissioner Robert M. DeGregorio Jr. and Waters discussed what would happen if the playoff champion could not be determined in the usual way. Waters believes its Atlantic Hockeys statutes state that if the tournament cannot be held, the regular season champion will assume the NCAA League bid. This year it would be AIC.
With RPI men's hockey hosting a quarterfinal of the ECAC hockey tournament against Harvard without fans, and the Ivy League canceling its men's and women's basketball championship tournaments, these assumptions have become more solid.
The Ivy Leagues solution is unfair to teams hoping to play their part in a tournament, including Air Force hockey, but larger forces are at work.
We want to make sure everyone is safe, said Waters.
Host sites for Atlantic hockey tournaments have been spared so far, but the coronavirus is nearby. West Point, which hosts Niagara this weekend, is one hour from New Rochelle. Much of New York's suburbs will be closed for two weeks as the state battles a group of coronavirus cases.
The last four games of Hockey Atlantic will take place March 20-21 in Buffalo, N.Y., which has yet to confirm any cases.
The league has not yet finalized an emergency plan, but all options are being discussed as plans change from minute to minute. The state in which the league is headquartered, Massachusetts, has had its governor declare a state of emergency, while confirmed cases have more than doubled to 92.
The options discussed include moving the series to a neutral location in the event of an epidemic in the region, or realizing what RPI has done and reading in front of empty stands.
People feel it at all levels … but in the same breath, his playoff hockey, said Waters. It's supposed to be the most exciting part of our season. Let’s do everything we can to make sure our playoffs go according to plan.
Back home, the schools make their own calls.
Colorado College has announced that Block 7 courses will be run remotely and the spring break, which begins Thursday, has been extended. Students should plan to stay off the March Break campus at least until the end of Block 7, and perhaps the rest of the school year, according to the school website. .
The Air Force Academy has raised its level of health protection, but at this stage, the expected measures include education and prevention.
The NCHC asked the tournament directors of each quarter-final site to be even more vigilant when it comes to cleaning and disinfection.
Stakeholders are in regular contact with local, state and national health agencies for advice on potential risks to their region. We encourage everyone to follow the guidelines provided by the CDC, said Commissioner Josh Fenton in a statement.
Last weekend, the NCHC changed the traditional bargaining line after the game and told players to leave gloves on for punches. It will continue. In addition, players and officials have not shaken hands during pre-game matches and coaches will not shake hands with opposing coaches.
Each team usually has common bottles of water on the bench, said defender CC McKay Flanagan. Last weekend, each Tiger had one with his name on it, and the NCHC suggested that each player also have their own towel.
Atlantic Hockeys' preventive measures are similar to the absence of skin-to-skin contact and continue to keep your own equipment sterilized.
Coaches rely on trainers and team doctors to track everything.
This is not my field, said Tigers coach Mike Haviland, adding that his staff were watching closely.
Concerned, like everyone else in the world.
Until they hear the opposite, teams must prepare. The Air Force is on a commercial flight to face the third seeded RIT in Rochester, New York, this weekend. Falcons striker Luke Manning said the viral threat was not on his mind.
In the end, you don't think about it or let it affect your game at all, said Manning.
CC hockey falls hard in Denver in the regular season final and will face North Dakota at the top of the playoffs
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