Teams awaiting schedules for start of league play
As league play edges closer to a return for hockey teams around the province, those involved with Prince Albert Minor Hockey have already been back on the ice for the last month.
The organization has been holding tryouts for their age-based leagues since early September at the Kinsmen Arena, with practices being held over the last couple of weeks.
“If I were to guess, we had about 4,000 to 5,000 players, coaches and parents come through the doors and it’s gone without a hitch thus far, which is excellent,” Prince Albert Minor Hockey technical director James Mays said on Tuesday. “The parents have all bought in, the players have been awesome so far as they follow the rules and guidelines that are in place and the City of Prince Albert employees have been wonderful in keeping on top of things at the facilities.
“There’s been some restrictions obviously with how many people can be in the rink, such as with the number of family members that can be there as that’s been cut down to one. In the past, when we’ve had our younger kids out on the ice, there have been 30 to 40 people out there. This year that’s been cut back to 20 to 25 people, which has meant some changes to the schedule and setting up extra ice time, but it’s worked out okay thus far.”
The Saskatchewan Hockey Association announced on Thursday afternoon that the provincial government had approved their Return to Hockey – Safety Guidelines and that could soon move past the current evaluation and training phase, which is also known as Phase #1.
Exhibition games, known as Phase #2, have a tentative start date of Saturday and would take place within a four-team or 50 players mini-league.
Regular season contests, which fall under Phase #3, have a tentative start date of Sunday, Nov. 1 and would consist of six teams or 80 players.
“We are just waiting for that shoe to drop in terms of regular season schedules,” Mays said. “What has to happen now is that each of the leagues have to sit down and determine which teams are going to be in their different pods to start the season before they begin to schedule ice times.
“There are no hard and fast rules from the SHA, but what they have asked us for is that the pods are as geographically tight as possible for the first set of mini-leagues and then we can reshuffle things a little bit after Christmas.”
While no schedules or games had been announced for local teams as of press time, the Saskatchewan Female Under-18 AAA Hockey League announced on Monday that the Prince Albert Northern Bears will start the season in a North Division with the Battlefords Sharks and the Saskatoon Stars, while the Notre Dame Hounds, Regina Rebels, Swift Current Wildcats and the Weyburn Gold Wings will compete in the South Division.
The release also stated that the league is aiming to play a 28-game schedule from November to the end of March, with exhibition games running from Oct. 17-31.
“The schedule will be played only on weekends with teams playing the same opponent in a home and away set,” the league said in a prepared statement. “ Any games cancelled due to winter weather or COVID will not be made up.
The league will shut down from Dec. 17-31 for Christmas. After Jan. 18, the league will play crossover games versus the opposite division. This is all dependent on the COVID cases being under control.”
In their announcement on Thursday, the SHA announced that face coverings and/or masks are required for every person that’s entering an arena in the province.
“That’s one of the promises that the SHA made to the Saskatchewan Health Authority and it’s one of the reasons that we’re able to open things back up,” Mays said.
“From the people that I have talked to in the rink, they have said that if they have to put a mask on in order to see a Mintos game or watch their grandson play hockey, they’d rather do that then spend one more evening on the couch.”