Ralph Engelstad Arena to start with 1,000 fans at home UND hockey games; mask will be required

Each school will have different attendance policies to begin the second half of the season.

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The main video board at Ralph Engelstad Arena shows a pre-recorded interview with incoming UND defenseman Jake Sanderson during day one of the National Hockey League (NHL) draft on Tuesday night. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

The last time the UND men's hockey team played a game in Ralph Engelstad Arena, it finished with a thunderous roar from a packed crowd as Shane Pinto scored an overtime goal to give the Fighting Hawks the Penrose Cup as National Collegiate Hockey Conference champions.

When the Fighting Hawks finally return home on Jan. 8, after 314 days, it will be quite a bit different.

There will be 1,000 fans in the 11,643-seat building, all of them in the lower bowl.

Nobody will be in the first two rows up against the glass. There will be buffer zones around the tunnels where the players come onto the ice, too.

Every other row will be blocked off. Fans will be sitting in groups of two or four, with either two or four seats blocked off on both sides of them.


The suites, some of which hold up to 24 people, will be limited to four.

The band will be spread across two sections in the upper bowl.

Fans and arena workers will be required to wear face coverings and there will be no congregating with friends on the concourse, which has been lined with hand-sanitizing stations.

The NCHC, which opened its season behind closed doors with a combined 38 games in 21 days in Omaha, will now transition to games at home sites, where each individual school will dictate its own fan policies. They are largely driven by local and state government regulations.

UND is one of the few schools that will allow fans to start.

Omaha, where the Fighting Hawks will play Thursday and Friday, will have 1,500 fans. UND will have 1,000. Western Michigan, Miami, Minnesota Duluth, St. Cloud State and Denver will start with no fans. Colorado College did not immediately respond to requests for their fan policies.

"The determining factor is the state of North Dakota's 'Smart Restart' program," Hodgson said in choosing the number of fans allowed. "If a building seats 3,500 or more, it is limited to a maximum capacity of 1,000. If the risk level is modified, we anticipate we'll be allowed a larger attendance, but I don't know what that is. We hope to find that out in the next couple of weeks."

UND has seven home game scheduled: Jan. 8-9 against Omaha, Jan. 22-23 against Colorado College, Feb. 5-6 against Denver and March 5 against Omaha. The NCHC has not yet announced whether changes will be made to the playoff format. It has considered going back to a Pod setup for that, too.


Who gets tickets?

North Dakota Champions Club member rankings were used to determine who got to purchase tickets for this season. The highest-ranking members were allowed a chance to buy four season tickets. Others were allowed to purchase two.

All seats were sold in season-ticket form, which allows for contact tracing.

If the state opens the door for a higher capacity, Hodgson said they may offer single-game tickets at that point.

For those in attendance, Ralph Engelstad Arena will have strict guidelines.

"All staff and fans will be required to wear masks at all times," Hodgson said. "The only time they'll be allowed to take it off is when they're actively eating or drinking in their physically distanced seat."

Fans will not be allowed to eat or drink outside of their seats.

"Physical distancing will be required at all times, whether that be in line at concession stands, restrooms or lines to get in the building," Hodgson said. "We will not allow congregating on the concourse. You can't huddle up with people who are not in the group you came in the building with."

Hodgson said there will be some students in the building, sitting in their normal sections behind the penalty boxes.


"We think students are an important part to college hockey," Hodgson said. "They're paying student fees and doing all the great things they do."

Colorado College

World Arena capacity: 7,343.

Number of fans allowed to start: TBA.

Parameters: TBA.

First home game: Friday.

UND's games in Colorado Springs: Feb. 12, Feb. 13.


Magness Arena capacity: 6,026.

Number of fans allowed to start: 0.


Family of players/staff allowed: No.

First home game: Saturday.

UND's games in Denver: Jan. 15, Jan. 16.


Goggin Ice Arena capacity: 3,642.

Number of fans allowed to start: 0.

Family of players/staff allowed: Yes.

First home game: Jan. 8.

UND's games in Oxford: None.


Minnesota Duluth

AmsOil Arena capacity: 6,800.

Number of fans allowed to start: 0.

Family of players/staff allowed: TBA.

First home game: Jan. 8.

UND's games in Duluth: None.

North Dakota

Ralph Engelstad Arena capacity: 11,643.

Number of fans allowed to start: 1,000.

Parameters: Masks required. Distance seating.


First home game: Jan. 8.

UND's games in Grand Forks: Jan. 8, Jan. 9, Jan. 22, Jan. 23, Feb. 5, Feb. 6, March 5.


Baxter Arena capacity: 7,898.

Number of fans allowed to start: 1,500.

Parameters: Masks required. Distanced seating.

First home game: Thursday.

UND's games in Omaha: Thursday, Friday, Feb. 26.

St. Cloud State

Herb Brooks National Hockey Center capacity: 5,159.

Number of fans allowed to start: 0.

Family of players/staff: Not allowed first weekend.

First home game: Saturday.

UND's games in St. Cloud: None.

Western Michigan

Lawson Ice Arena capacity: 3,667.

Number of fans allowed to start: 0.

Family of players/staff: Not allowed first weekend.

First home game: Saturday.

UND's games in Kalamazoo: None.

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at
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