UAF Hockey to play home games at Patty Ice Arena, likely without fans

Published: Nov. 17, 2020 at 7:48 PM AKST
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The Western Collegiate Hockey Association gave a November 17 deadline for schools within the conference to make a decision on their participation and the University of Alaska Fairbanks elected to opt-in to the upcoming hockey season. This resolution falls in line with the University’s decision last week to opt-in to the upcoming men’s and women’s basketball seasons. Similar to their decision for basketball, opting-in to a season does not obligate UAF to compete, but preserves the right to do so when they feel it can be done safely.

UAF Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs and Athletics, Keith Champagne, told KTVF Tuesday that Nanook hockey will play their home games this season at the Patty Ice Arena on the University’s campus. The Carlson Center, the traditional home for UAF hockey, is currently being used as an overflow healthcare facility for COVID-19 patients. As an alternate care center, the Carlson Center has been equipped with hospital beds since April.

Additionally, it is expected that UAF will play their upcoming home games at the Patty Ice Arena without spectators.

“At this time, we don’t see the ability to have fans attend our games,” said Champagne. "Given the surge [of COVID-19 cases] and given the Governor’s mandate, we want to create a safe environment and we want to create an environment that is safe for our officials, staff and student-athletes. It is something that we would like, but it is just not possible given the safety precautions and the safety measures we need to have in place.”

UAF’s first home series is scheduled for January 8-9 against Northern Michigan University. Although the Nanooks will open the season without fans in attendance, Champagne said that eventually having spectators at some point in the season is “something they will consider going forward.”

As voted on by the Great Northwest Athletic Conference CEO Board, all teams within the GNAC, including UAF men’s and women’s basketball, will not allow fans to attend their games.

Last week, the University of Alaska Anchorage announced they will not be competing in any indoor winter team sports this year, which includes ice hockey. UAF was originally scheduled to play the Seawolves in each of their first four games of the season. Those games have been canceled and will not be made up, as the puck will drop on the Nanooks season January 1, 2021 at Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. While NCAA Division I schools such as UAA and Rochester Institute of Technology have opted-out of the upcoming hockey season, UAF made an effort to compete this season.

“It was important to our students and even more important to our community,” said Champagne. “We have an iconic hockey brand here, no disrespect to any other brand or hockey program. We have, based on what I have noticed in my short time here, some very great fans, corporate sponsors and people, who through thick and thin, have continued to support this athletic department and this hockey program.”

The Nanook hockey program continues to prepare for the proposed 16-game, WCHA-only schedule with full team practices at their 2021 home of the Patty Ice Arena.

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