Expect both the Maine Nordiques and the Twin City Thunder to hit the ice in the fall.

The North American Hockey League, where the Nordiques play, and the National Collegiate Development Conference of the U.S. Premier Hockey League where the Twin City Thunder play in are both looking for a start date in September. Neither league put out an official schedule, though.

The leagues are eagerly optimistic, but know September is still a long ways away.

“I am excited to state that our goal for the season is to play a full 60-game regular season schedule, beginning with the Greatest Show on Ice in September at the NAHL Showcase in Blaine, Minnesota, continuing with the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament in February, and concluding with Robertson Cup National Championship Tournament May,” NAHL commissioner and president Mark Frankenfeld said in a press release last Friday. “With that in mind, we understand that many factors are out of our control and that we may need to consider an alternative schedule for upcoming season. In all of our models the alternative schedule would be simply defined as a delayed start to the current schedule in order to not affect player development and exposure.”

Last year, the NAHL Showcase was from September 18-21 in Blaine.

The USPHL already announced its plans to start all their of its leagues, including the two Tier III leagues containing the Thunder and the Elite League in addition to the NCDC September 25-27.

“The NCDC will start on time in late September,” NCDC deputy commissioner Dave Peters said, “but we are in unprecedented times. we are in a global pandemic and we are going to follow all the guidelines from the state governments. If it’s safe, to play hockey, in (the Northeast), we will play hockey. We are going to follow the guidelines closely, we expect to open, but nobody knows for sure. Things could change.”

The 13-team NCDC has four teams in Massachusetts (Islanders Hockey Club, Boston Advantages, Boston Jr. Bruins and the South Shore Kings), two in New Hampshire (New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs and Northern Cyclones), two in New Jersey (Jersey Hitmen and Rockets Hockey Club). It also has two teams in New York, the Utica Comets and the P.A.L Islanders. The teams are separated by 250 miles. The Islanders are closest to the Connecticut Jr. Rangers, who are located in Stamford, Connecticut, 50 miles from Syosset, New York where the Islanders play.

The Philadelphia Hockey Club is Pennsylvania’s lone team and within a two hour drive from both New Jersey teams. The Thunder are within a two-and half-hour drive from both New Hampshire teams, the Islanders Hockey Club and the Boston Jr. Bruins.

Peters feels like having a couple of teams in close proximity to each other will help.

“If something were to happen, geographics allow us more flexibility,” he said. “But we are expected to open in late September. We will see how that goes. We will monitor it month-to-month, week-to-week, to see if there are any changes.”

Just like the NAHL, the NCDC is still planning on having league-wide events this season. The NCDC holds three showcases in October with the Jersey Hitmen Classic, Cyclones Columbus Day Classic and the Beantown Fall Classic while in November there’s the Islanders Hockey Showcase.

The NAHL is more spread out with 27 teams this season across the country. Teams mostly play within their division.

The Nordiques are in the East Division, which includes their closest opponent the Northeast Generals in Attleboro, Massachusetts. The division has teams Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

The Central Division has teams in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota while the Midwest Division has teams in Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota and Alaska. The South Division has teams in Texas, Kansas, New Mexico and Louisiana.

Asked if a division or divisions could play if there is no outbreak in that part of the region of the country, a spokesperson for the NAHL said the Frankenfeld wasn’t going to comment any further on scheduling as there are too many unknowns right now.

For the NCDC, the business model isn’t fan-driven, so it can play with zero fans in the building if need be.

Most teams in the NCDC own the rink they play in.

“The rink ownership model of the USPHL organizations eliminates the need for a fan-based economic model and the uncertainty that comes along with the potential revenue deficiencies of a decreasing fan base,” NCDC Commissioner and Islanders Hockey Club owner Richard Gallant said in an April USPHL press release. “The USPHL business model includes large scale team programs, a host of other on-ice rink programming revenues and other ancillary offerings like concessions, which allows the USPHL programs to invest with surety in the league’s player development model. When the rinks reopen this summer under new social distancing guidelines, the USPHL owners can guarantee their teams will be back in business.”

The city of Auburn owns the Norway Savings Bank Arena and has a lease with the Thunder.

Thunder co-owner and coach Dan Hodge said fan support does help the organization.

“It’s great for recruiting and for the budget obviously, but we have to be safe,” Hodge said. “It also depends what the state says, depending what the numbers are, how many people we can have in a building at a time. Where are we at, at that point? It’s not going to be easy, that’s for sure. We want to make sure public safety is number one, player safety and fan safety is number one.”

Nolan Howe, the head coach of the Nordiques said the organization is going to do what’s best for safety.

“It’s incredibly important,” Howe said of fans being in the stands for the start of the season. “It’s certainly the goal, it’s what we are hoping to come to fruition. I try not to speculate too much but we’ve got, hopefully, until late September for our home opener. But we will see how things play out. It’s certainly our goal to have fans in the building as long as its safe and we do it in a responsible manner I am hopeful everything will work out.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.