OMAHA, Neb. — For your team to make it to the NCAA Division I men's hockey tournament, it needs talent and a little bit of luck mixed in. If you want to see your team play in person in the NCAA regional tournament or in the Frozen Four this season, you will need a bit of luck as well.
Speaking with reporters on Monday as part of the weekly The Rink Live podcast, NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Committee chair Mike Kemp said that attendance at the four regional sites, and at the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh, will be limited by the NCAA to 25 percent of the venue’s capacity. So, for example, at the NCAA Midwest Regional, which is scheduled to be held at Scheels Arena in Fargo on March 26-27, the spectator capacity will be limited to 1,500 in the 6,000-seat building, despite current guidelines from the state of North Dakota that are more generous.
Local and state ordinances and guidelines in the five states hosting regionals or the Frozen Four could further restrict attendance depending on the situation with the pandemic in their particular region.
Kemp also noted that the Northeast Regional, originally scheduled for Manchester, N.H., will now be played at the Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y., after officials in New Hampshire said that local restrictions due to COVID-19 would prevent them from hosting the four-team event. Albany’s minor league rink hosted the Frozen Four in 1992 and 2000 and has been a frequent regional tournament site.
“That’s all set moving forward, so we know we’re going to have as normal as possible a run of the tournament as far as dates and times and everything,” Kemp said. “Pittsburgh has been on board with the Frozen Four from Day 1. They’ve been great to work with and they’re very excited about having it.”
Other regional sites are Loveland, Colo., and Bridgeport, Conn. The Frozen Four will be played at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, the home rink of the NHL’s Penguins, on April 8 and 10. The venue, which last hosted the Frozen Four in 2013, will be limited to around 5,000 tickets per the NCAA’s guidelines.
Kemp also confirmed that the 16-team NCAA tournament field will be picked by a committee this season, and not using the PairWise system which has been the standard for picking the field in recent years.
“This is a year and a time for grace, let’s be honest,” Kemp said of the selection process. “There has to be an eye test...because the PairWise in its form is not going to be applicable in this situation because it is dependent on comparing across conferences and with no inter-conference play, that has really made that impossible.”
The NCAA tournament’s 16-team field will be announced on Sunday, March 21, with the regional tournaments starting later that week.
Originally from Duluth, Minn., Kemp played college hockey and got his first coaching job at Gustavus Adolphus in St. Peter, Minn. He was a long-time assistant coach under Bob Johnson and Jeff Sauer at Wisconsin, then started the Omaha program in the 1990s.