Gov Cup

Chris Jandric throws the Governor's Cup to the student section after the University of Alaska Fairbanks defeated the University of Alaska Anchorage 6-1 on Saturday at the Carlson Center. Laura Stickells/News-Miner

The Western Collegiate Hockey Association will delay the start of its season, Commissioner Bill Robertson announced today.

"We continue to engage in thorough evaluation and discussion of various options for safely opening the 2020-21 season, both nationally and within the WCHA, as the health and safety of everyone associated with our league is our top priority," Robertson said in a news release. "There was a strong desire to open the season as scheduled on Oct. 3, but that is not possible given the realities we are facing. While we are still finalizing plans for our season at this point, we owe it to our student-athletes, coaches, officials and great fans to acknowledge the fact we will not begin play on time."

The WCHA includes 10 teams in five states, which are all operating under a variety of state, local and institutional COVID-19 mandates. The Alaska Nanooks hockey team was quarantined for two weeks after members attended a large party and several tested positive for the virus. The University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves are also a part of the WCHA this season.

Delaying the season gives league and member administrators a chance to continue discussions about mitigation and safety efforts that will allow teams to return to the ice safely. A 2020-21 schedule and details regarding non-league play and the WCHA postseason tournament will be announced later this fall.

According to the original schedule, which was released in May, the Nanooks were to play 14 home games at the Carlson Center and 14 road games. This season is also likely the final season the Alaska teams will be a part of the WCHA. Seven of the teams had previously announced plans to leave the conference, leaving only the Nanooks, Seawolves and University of Alabama-Huntsville. With UAA announcing plans to cut the hockey team, which the Board of Regents is discussing today, that would leave the Nanooks out in the cold as the only Division 1 hockey team in Alaska. The University of Alabama-Huntsville is also discontinuing its hockey team.

UAF is looking at other options for the 2021-22 season, according to Keith Champagne, vice chancellor for student affairs and athletics.

For Alaska Nanooks ticket holders, the delayed season means staff will need to reassess season tickets once the schedule is finalized. The Alaska Nanooks ticketing office is closed until October due to furlough.

Contact staff writer Julie Stricker at 459-7532.