The Wisconsin men’s hockey team will open its 2020-21 season in November. The Big Ten Conference announced on Tuesday the season will start as early as Nov. 13, a delay of roughly six weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The seven Big Ten teams will play 24 league games and will also play four non-conference games against Arizona State during the season. That move allows the independent Sun Devils to fill their schedule, but puts that program on the road for the entire season.
The Badgers already had two non-conference games set up for this season against Arizona State. The teams were also a part of the field for the inaugural Holiday Face-Off in December at Milwaukee’s Fiserv Forum. That event will be put on hold for a year.
The Big Ten also decided to return to a one-weekend format for its 2021 postseason tournament after splitting the three rounds over three weekends for the last three years. A site for that championship (March 18-20) hasn’t been determined.
Fans will not be allowed to see games in person, at least to start. That means scheduling will be even more flexible than ever. Badger coach Tony Granato said there’s a possibility of midweek games and daytime starts to fit into travel plans and into TV schedules.
UW could also play its home games at LaBahn Arena.
Granato gave credit to former Michigan coach Red Berenson, who’s now a special adviser for hockey operations to Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren, with emphasizing to league decision-makers that teams risked losing top talent the longer there was no word on when the season will start.
The Badgers risked losing winger Cole Caufield, who was a 2019 first-round draft pick of the Montreal Canadians. Montreal GM Marc Bergevin had said that if the NCAA season didn’t get started the team would have to look at other options for Caufield to play. Caufield was reportedly being pursued by a Swedish pro team.
But all of that is put in the rearview mirror now with Big Ten Hockey returning in November.