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Will we have UMaine hockey this winter?

Tourney time. University of Maine ice hockey.

These are things that typically get Mainers through the seesaw season that is winter.

But in this not-so-usual time that is 2020 with Covid-19 grappling the United States, those rites of passage may not happen.

With the tight restrictions on winter sports set by the Maine Principals' Association, it's likely that high school hoop tournament sites in Bangor, Augusta and Portland won't have balls bouncing, fans cheering and bands blaring music in February.

UMaine's Alfond Arena will also be dark for a considerable time, with University officials announcing Tuesday that varsity athletics on campus will be suspended until at least Dec. 8 due to Covid-19 concerns.

This came after a UMaine men's basketball player tested positive for the virus, and it means the women's basketball team won't participate in a tournament in Connecticut and the men's hockey team won't travel to Connecticut this weekend.

It's leaving Black Bear hockey diehards wondering if we'll even see a full season.

Hockey East officials wanted to do their darndest to get a complete schedule in, but Covid numbers are spiking throughout New England.

It's challenging when Maine's indoor gathering limit remains at 50, which renders it challenging to get games in even with no fans inside the Alfond.

Between two teams, coaches, staff and media, you're exceeding the limit handed down by Governor Janet Mills.

Until we get this virus under control, it's hard to fathom we're going to see any hockey at the Alfond, fans or no fans.

And before you go blaming Governor Mills, it's by no means the fault of state officials.

UMaine is trying their hardest as an institution to get the ball rolling, but the safety of coaches and athletes is paramount. Players have been practicing in masks.

Unfortunately, there are more questions than answers at this point. We all want to see winter sports happen. But if Maine is under a 9:00 curfew through Dec. 6 in terms of closing bars, restaurants and other businesses - and I expect Mills to expend that on or around that date - what makes us think we can host a major college hockey game?

And that's the sad, unfortunate reality of the roller coaster that is 2020. Tourney week won't happen in high school basketball for the first time since World War II.

Major kudos should be given to Red Gendron, Amy Vachon, Richard Barron and everyone else at UMaine who has worked so hard to prepare their student-athletes to play when the green light is given to drop the puck or tip the basketball.

But until Mainers find a way to keep social distancing and wear masks - and before you complain about them, I have to wear them teaching my fitness classes - sports are going to be a struggle to get going.

And that's unfortunate for the players, for the fans, for the coaches, and for my sports reporting brethren.

Hopefully, UMaine can find a way to get their student-athletes a chance to have a season. But the rest of us need to do our part to make that happen.

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