For many teams in the hockey world, the summer of 2020 has been one of adjustments and for the Lake Superior State hockey team, it has meant using technology to become more efficient in some ways.
The Western Collegiate Hockey Association season came to an early end, much like college hockey leagues across the United States and in Canada, in mid-March..
With other leagues facing a similar fate - an early end to the season combined with the inability to travel due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic - it meant a change in the way many schools had to approach recruiting in the meantime.
“We got shut down, so it’s like everything where you can’t travel, so that for us, when you’re so used to traveling a lot and going out evaluating and watching hockey, it’s been really challenging,” Lake State hockey coach Damon Whitten said. “You miss it. You miss seeing kids play and being out. It’s allowed us to be more efficient in some of the ways we do recruit and the way we operate in different areas. Our goal is to come through leaner and more efficient in the way we do things.”
Approaching five months since the shutdown, Whitten spoke of just how important technology has become in every way when it comes to running the program.
“Technology is the name of the game right now,” Whitten said. “We’re trying to utilize not just social media, but the technology available like Zoom and Google Meet to get face-to-face time with recruits and your own team to keep up relationships and checking in on your own players. That’s really been new to all of us. Instead of being out in person, you’re finding a way to do it through the internet and through technology. We’ve hosted visits through Zoom and those have gone as good as they can.
“There are so many different ways that kids can be streamed now,” Whitten also said. “As we were getting shut down, we were watching the end of the leagues that were going and now you’re going back to games throughout the season. There are some camps that are starting up that have different streaming options and companies that are streaming that, so we’re starting to watch a lot of that and just trying to watch players any way we can.”
The WCHA has released its composite schedule for conference games for the 2020-21 season through there remains some uncertainty with regards to whether the season will be able to begin on time in the fall.
The Lakers are scheduled to open WCHA action on Oct. 3 on the road against the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
“One of the things that’s been good the last couple of weeks in terms of return to play is that we’re really trying to gather as much information as we can,” Whitten said. “We certainly want to keep the safety of our student athletes in mind. Be patient. It’s still July, so making decisions on October and November is just too early. If you put yourself in the position of our student athletes and our fans, hockey in our community and on the Canadian side is important to a lot of people. We want to give ourselves every chance to try to have some sort of a season and a full season if we can. We’ve been patient and I like that. It’s the right approach right now.”