The NCAA Division I Management Council has given preliminary approval to a proposal that would establish a uniform start date for preseason practice and the first contest date in men’s and women’s hockey.
The measure, passed by the Council during its meeting April 9-10, would prevent schools from playing their first game against outside competition before the 23rd full weekend back from the first round of the sports’ respective NCAA tournaments. The first preseason practice could not be conducted prior to the Saturday of the 25th full weekend back from the first round of the NCAA tournament.
The effective date of the proposed change is August 1, 2002.
The legislation has been a source of controversy in the college hockey community. The proposal is officially sponsored by the MAAC and ECAC; however, the ECAC has withdrawn its support since originally asking the MAAC to put forth the legislation last year.
According to Joe Bertagna, commissioner of Hockey East and president of the American Hockey Coaches Association, the change in the proposed playing season start time is opposed by five of the six men’s Division I leagues, the AHCA, and the American Women’s Hockey Coaches Association.
In approving the proposal, the Management Council has established a 90-day comment period from NCAA members expiring August 24, 2001.
If the legislation is adopted, Division I men’s programs could not begin play in 2002-03 before Oct. 19, 2002, nor practice before Oct. 5, 2002. Currently, NCAA rules allow practice and play on Sept. 7 or the school’s first day of classes for the fall term, whichever is earlier.
This past season, the first outside game was played on Sept. 30, an exhibition between Michigan and Waterloo, with the first games between NCAA schools held on Oct. 6. The proliferation of early-season tournaments in recent years has led to schools starting play earlier than ever before.
The MAAC has another proposal entered as alternative legislation. It would effectively leave in place the proposed change concerning the start of practice but not change the date of the first contest. That legislation has also been approved by the Council and will undergo the same comment period, with an effective date of August 1, 2004.