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Sportsnet report: NHL discussing possibility of having playoff games in Grand Forks

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UND hockey fans file into Ralph Engelstad Arena for the final regular-season hockey game against Western Michigan Saturday night in Grand Forks. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS -- The NHL is tossing around ideas for possible ways to finish out the 2019-20 season.

According to a report by NHL insider Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet , one of those ideas is to play remaining regular season and playoff games in Ralph Engelstad Arena.

According to Friedman's report: "Several sites would be necessary, but Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, N.D., makes sense. Host of the 2005 World Junior Championships, the 2016 World Under-18s and the NCAA’s Fighting Hawks, it is an impressive facility that is definitely more suitable than many other available non-NHL options in the United States."

The report says nothing is imminent, but the arena and low population density would make it an attractive option. It is unlikely fans would be allowed at the games.

There's little doubt that Ralph Engelstad Arena and general manager Jody Hodgson would pull out all the stops to try to make it happen.

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The Ralph and Hodgson have excelled at putting on big events from the World Juniors to the World Under-18 tournament to the World Curling Championship to running UND's wildly popular destination hockey games.

Before the college hockey season was called off due to the coronavirus outbreak, Hodgson prepped The Ralph for the possibility of hosting a first-round National Collegiate Hockey Conference series with as many safety precautions as possible. Sanitation stations were installed throughout the venue, including the locker rooms and the press box.

Ralph Engelstad Arena has never hosted a regular-season or playoff NHL game, but it has played host to preseason NHL games.

In 2002, the Wild played against the Atlanta Thrashers in The Ralph. In 2003, the Wild played against the St. Louis Blues. In 2005, the Wild played the Florida Panthers in a preseason game.

In 2008, the Wild also held part of its training camp in The Ralph due to the Xcel Energy Center needing work after hosting the Republican National Convention.

The NHL has been on hiatus due to the coronavirus outbreak since March 11.

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 bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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