COVID crazy: One year later

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Jordan McAlpine
SPORTS EDITOR

It’s a sign of the times as masks are required inside Baxter Arena. The NCAA canceled all remaining winter and spring championships on March 12, 2020. One full year later, COVID-19 is still impacting the world of sports. Photo taken by Mark Kuhlmann.

It’s still crazy to think it’s been one year since the world of sports came to a screeching halt. A stretch of days in mid-March of 2020 saw the NCAA, and professional leagues around the globe postpone if not cancel games or the season altogether. With so much uncertainty, nobody knew what the next year would hold.

One year later, it’s been a crazy one to say the least.

 Fall sports were shifted to the spring. The men’s and women’s basketball weren’t even able to play a home game until the calendar and flipped, and Baxter Arena played host to 38 hockey games day in 21 days in a bubble-like format.

Even baseball and softball have seen games postponed or canceled due to positive COVID-19 tests this spring. It’s surreal to think about, but it’s part of the world we’re living in.

“It’s still hard to believe we’re almost a full year from when they canceled our season,” said baseball head coach Evan Porter. “What a difference one year makes and now we’re just a couple days away from opening up our new ballpark.” 

The baseball team left TD Ameritrade Park on Saturday, March 7, with an 8-1 win over Creighton. On March 12, just five days later, the NCAA canceled all spring championships, cutting the 2020 college baseball season short.

 When hockey fans left Baxter Arena after the Mavericks 5-0 loss to North Dakota on that same March 7 date, it would be the last time those same fans would occupy those seats until Jan. 23, 2021.

Masks and cardboard cutouts have become the norm at the seven home games fans were able to attend this season, but the Mavericks played 10 games in December in an empty arena.

For the players on the ice, the following week after that North Dakota loss was just the beginning. The Mavericks found themselves in Denver getting ready for the opening round of the NCHC playoffs, but that would never happen.

“I just remember we were at our hotel and all of us were seeing stuff on our social media feeds with everything happening around the country,” said Omaha center Nolan Sullivan. “We had our meeting get canceled, so I knew something was off, and we had just seen games get canceled in the NBA and other professional leagues the night before.

“When we got on the bus to head back to Omaha though, we all still thought we’d be playing honestly. It was just going to get postponed for a week or two, but it’s surreal that we’re coming up on the full year of it already.”

It’s something all athletes around the country have been dealing with for the last year. Quarantines, frequent testing- sometimes as often as four times a week- and the way of travel and training has changed. At the same time, so many have had the mindset that they’re just fortunate to be back playing the sports they love.

As Baxter Arena saw the return of fans in a limited capacity with hockey, basketball and volleyball this winter, it’s a small step in the right direction. Now with soccer at Caniglia Field along with baseball and softball opening up their brand new complex, slowly but surely more and more fans are making their way back.

Sports might have a different look, but it’s a constant reminder of the current world everyone is currently living in. Even one full year later.

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