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The waiting game: Bradley hockey navigates restrictions

Ever since the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) canceled its national tournament in March, Bradley’s club hockey team has been patiently waiting to step out on the ice again.

Bradley varsity athletes and teams are currently allowed to practice with NCAA safety measures in place; however, club sports have been barred that same opportunity.

While some members of the ACHA have already begun their season, others like Bradley have opted for a spring season. The Mid-American Collegiate Hockey Association is home to the Braves, and on Aug. 3, the conference voted unanimously to play league games starting in January.

Currently, club sports at Bradley are not permitted to gather in big groups or hold usual practices, which makes keeping fit and bonding very hard on the players. Team president and Bradley junior Josh Crandall has been at the forefront of finding out what the team can and cannot do during this time.

“We’ve made the decision that it’s just easier for the players to train on their own time and stay in shape on their own as opposed to trying to organize everything,” Crandall said.

Without team practices or any other chance to bond as a group, relationships that are usually forged before the season begins have been difficult to develop. 

“The chemistry’s still there between the guys who were here last year, but I think for freshmen coming in, none of us know them that well,” senior Logan Nigg said.

Overall, the ever-changing and uncertain situation is mentally taxing on the group.

“It’s been hard for the few guys in the club who are seniors, and all they want to do is get their last year in order,” Crandall said. “I know it’s been hard on the freshmen as well. They had all these expectations of ‘I can’t wait to play this club sport,’ and they’re being told, ‘You have to wait.’”

While the league hopes to start play near the end of January, the players won’t have nearly as much time as they may have wanted to get back into the swing of things.

“I haven’t touched ice since summer,” Nigg said. “It’ll probably be a quick turnaround, but we’re expecting to play in January. It sucks, it’s not the senior year any of us wanted.”

Crandall knows the obstacles in the way of trying to stay in shape, but he expects he and his teammates to be ready when it comes time.

“It’s definitely going to be interesting when it comes down to it, but I believe our players will be ready and driven by the fact they haven’t been able to play this entire time,” Crandall said.

Despite these setbacks, Crandall is still excited about the team and expects success come January.

“I think we’ll be a solid team this year; the talent that I believe we have coming in, and the stuff I have seen, has been really good talent,” Crandall said. “This year we’re looking to get as far as we can into that tournament, if not win that whole thing.

The team has been through a lot with the number of restrictions on them currently, but they believe that once they can lace up their skates and step out on the ice, they’ll be as ready as ever to compete.

“I think once we get through this whole COVID situation, all the guys will have a renewed appreciation for the game of hockey, and hopefully that comes out in the passion they exude on the ice,” Crandall said.

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