RIT men, women become first D-I college hockey teams to cancel 2020-21 season (Updated with statement from players)

Jake Hamacher (14 - RIT) (2018 Omar Phillips)
RIT’s Gene Polisseni center will be dark this season as the men’s and women’s hockey seasons – along with all other winter sports – have been canceled (photo: Omar Phillips).

Rochester Institute of Technology has canceled all winter sports, including men’s and women’s hockey, for the 2020-21 season due to what it says are “ongoing health and safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In addition to hockey – RIT’s only D-I sports – wrestling and men’s and women’s basketball, swimming and diving, and indoor track and field are canceled.

“This was a very difficult decision and we understand the disappointment this brings to our student-athletes and coaches,” said RIT president David Munson in a statement Monday afternoon. “But given the rise in COVID-19 in our community, as well as across the nation and globe, this is the right thing to do for athletes and community safety.”

While the men’s Atlantic Hockey and women’s College Hockey America conferences are still scheduled to play, RIT’s statement said it “felt the obstacles were too high to play during a global pandemic.”

“Campus leadership has been meeting regularly to discuss the prospect of safely conducting winter sports competitions under the backdrop of extensive NCAA, New York State Department of Health, and university guidelines aimed at keeping our community safe,” said RIT athletic director Lou Spiotti Jr.

“In spite of our efforts, the virus continues to spread throughout the region and we could not justify a season of competition for any of our teams.”

A statement on behalf of the RIT men’s team was posted on Twitter shortly after the announcement by senior forward Jake Hamacher:

Most of RIT’s Division III teams participate in the Liberty League. That conference became the eighth D-I conference to cancel its winter season on Monday.

As recently as two weeks ago, the RIT men had anticipated starting play this Friday, November 13.

Four other schools with D-I hockey are members of the Liberty League: Clarkson, Rensselaer, St. Lawrence, and Union.

The NCAA recently approved a blanket waiver allowing all student-athletes across all divisions to retain their year of eligibility for the 2020-21 academic year.