On Aug. 20th the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) released its “Return to Sports Plan” for the 2020-21 season, including details about the high school hockey season.
According to the plan, which was composed by the NJSIAA Sports Advisory Task Force, the following dates for practices, games and state playoffs have been set.
- December 3rd – Practices may begin.
- December 21st – Game play may begin.
- February 3rd – Regular season will end.
- February 5th – State tournaments will begin.
- February 17th – The state finals will conclude.
The targeted start dates for practice and competition are considerably later than a conventional high school hockey season. In the past, opening night of the Shore Conference Hockey Season closely followed the Thanksgiving holiday, with tryouts and practices taking place at the beginning of November, and state finals often ran into the first week of March.
NJSIAA Stresses Travel Reduction in Post Season Seeding & Competition
The state tournament may also look different during the age of COVID-19.
The plan states that “The NJSIAA will strive to open post-season participation to any school wishing to participate.” In the past, teams normally would have to have a .500 record at the time of state tournament seeding meetings to qualify. During the meeting, certain programs under the .500 mark could receive an at-large tournament bid.
Additionally, post-season tournament structure may be formatted regionally, rather than by school district size and section, as the NJSIAA, in accordance with mandates and guidelines introduced by the New Jersey Department of Health, is stressing minimal travel for this 2020-21 campaign.
“Depending on the sport, the post-season will be structured regionally based on counties or based on NJSIAA Sections. The 2019 – 2020 classifications will be relied on if Sectional championships are hosted.”
Tournament brackets will still be constructed by seeding committees, rather than the reliance on power points and other ranking systems. Power Points and ranking systems are usually reserved for sports like football and wrestling, rather than ice hockey.
“Objective data may be reviewed by the seeding committee, but it may also consider school location and other criteria,” the plan states, once again emphasizing travel as an integral part of the playoff process.
Health & Safety at the Forefront for this NJSIAA Season
“We’re extremely appreciative of the support and guidance from Governor Phil Murphy, Senator Paul Sarlo and Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly,” NJSIAA COO Colleen Maguire said in a medial release. “Our kids need structured activity, and we believe that education-based high school sports is the best way to provide it. Giving teenagers extra motivation to stay COVID-free promotes healthy outcomes for everyone.”
Following the release of its plan, the NJSIAA distributed a Q&A segment with Dr. Damion Martins, a member of the NJSIAA Sports Advisory Task Force. Watch the informational video below.
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