J.D. Greenway (middle) of the University of Maine men's hockey team skates the puck away from Boston University players during a March 2020 game at Alfond Arena in Orono. Credit: Courtesy of UMaine Athletics

Winter in Maine is a true test of mental toughness and physical endurance.

Of our 335 million or so fellow Americans, only a small percentage suffer through a more trying and miserable winter experience than us here in Maine.

A few hearty souls are able to offset the lack of light with outdoor activities such as snowmobiling, skiing and ice fishing.

For decades, thousands of us beat the winter blues by cheering “Go Blue” in the Alfond.

Boy do we need those Black Bears on skates more than ever.

As Chris Farley would say, we might not have “jack squat” to do this winter thanks to the omnipresent COVID-19. For the first time in generations, we may not have high school hoops to help us through the long, dark winter nights that start at 2 p.m.

A Patriots playoff run into February seems unlikely.

Gov. Mills, for our sanity, please let us have Red and his boys on the ice this season.

Normally by now the Black Bears would have six or eight games under their belts. They have been practicing diligently waiting to hear when or if there will be a season at all.

UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy has not yet determined whether Black Bears sports, including hockey, will compete this season.

Hockey East officials are certainly planning on it, announcing recently that it expects to begin league games on Nov. 20.

“We’re planning on playing conference only because that’s the best model of our conference where we can take advantage of our geography,” said Hockey East commissioner Steve Metcalf. “We’re trying to do this as safely as we can but also build something that is sustainable.”

Most schools can travel by bus and do home-and-home series. Maine and Vermont are the outliers. And for Maine this makes it tricky.

Last week Gov. Mills announced travel to and from any states other than New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont require 14 days of quarantine or testing. Quarantine is not practical, but I would hope the flagship athletics program for our state can get its hands on enough tests to allow for road trips.

I also doubt fans will be allowed into the Alfond.

Personally I’d like to see maybe 1,000 fans allowed in. With masks. In sections with social distancing. With assigned restrooms. I know many fans who would be glad to cross their legs and hold it for the chance to see Black Bear hockey in person this winter.

But Mills seems to be a long way from allowing more than 50 people per room anywhere so I doubt 1,000 people in a building is in our future anytime soon.

In an upcoming winter where entertainment options are as rare as 70-degree days in January, UMaine hockey is essential to our winter survival. For the sanity of sports fans we must drop the puck.

We need a break. We need local sports. Because all work and no play will not produce a win for any of us.

Jeff Solari is the founder of the Maine Sports Chowdah, Maine’s only free, weekly sports email newsletter. He has been in sports media since he was 17 and is not shy with his opinions or perspective on the world of sports. The longtime sports broadcaster is a graduate of Mount Desert Island High School and the University of Southern Maine. Previous gigs included WLBZ-TV and WCSH-TV, host of “The Shootaround” talk radio show on WZON and stints with “Downtown” and “The Drive.” Solari has won more than 15 Maine Association of Broadcasters and AP broadcaster awards.

Jeff Solari is the president and founder of the Sports Chowdah, Maine’s only free, weekly sports email newsletter. Recently, the Mount Desert Island native was the co-host of "The Drive" on 92.9 FM in...