For the time being, getting into a competitive hockey game could prove to be the toughest ticket in Prince Albert.
As pre-season games take place throughout the province this weekend, a cap on the number of people in the stands is in place for all arenas in Saskatchewan and everyone who is in the building will be required to wear a mask.
Prince Albert Mintos
The Mintos will start off their exhibition slate on Saturday as they will host the Tisdale Trojans in a 7 p.m. affair at the Art Hauser Centre, with a rematch set for Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Tisdale RECplex.
“I think for the players, parents and the coaches, it’s a pretty exciting time to know that we will be back to playing hockey again,” Mintos team manager Kalen Wright said.
“We’ve been a little busy here putting together spectator lists and getting return to play documents out to the other teams, but we’re all looking forward to the year finally getting underway.”
The capacity for Mintos games at the moment is at 150 fans, with a very limited number of seats allowed for walk-up purchases after sections of the stands have been booked already for parents and billet families for both teams.
“We’re recommending that people don’t show up at the door looking to get in as we don’t want to turn anyone away,” Wright said. “That’s the last thing we want to do.
“We know that everyone is excited and it’s been a long time since we’ve all been back at the rink. We just want to make sure that everyone stays safe and we aren’t shutting things down again. Hopefully it goes well and maybe we’ll have room for more people once the regular season gets underway.”
The Saskatchewan Male Under-18 AAA Hockey League will feature a 30-game regular season, which will begin for the Mintos next Sunday at the SaskTel Centre against the Saskatoon Contacts for a 2:30 p.m. affair.
The Mintos home opener will be on Sunday, Nov. 8 against the Trojans at 1:30 p.m.
The full schedule is expected to be posted on a brand-new league website later this weekend and will also be found on the Mintos’ social media pages.
“There will be some tweaks once we get to January as the (Prince Albert) Raiders schedule gets released,” Wright said.
“All of our games right now are scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but there will be some games after Christmas that are tentative start times at the moment.”
Prince Albert Northern Bears
Like the Mintos, the Bears are only allowed 150 people for their lone home pre-season game, which will be held at 1:30 p.m. Sunday against the Saskatoon Stars at the Art Hauser Centre.
“What we decided as an organization is that our billet parents and the girls’ families will have first pick in terms of seating and then we’ll have a list of 40 spectators coming from Saskatoon,” Bears president Laura Quesnel said. “There’s going to be a room for a few walkups, especially if those that are on the list from Saskatoon are unable to attend, but it’s not going to be open to the public like we would be for a regular game night.
“Those rules will be in place until the Saskatchewan Health Authority and the Saskatchewan Hockey Association let us know that there will be changes to the current protocols. We’re disappointed that we aren’t able to let all of our fans into the games right now, but we’re making sure that everyone stays safe so that we can get back to playing hockey.”
The Bears will open their Saskatchewan Female Under-18 Hockey League regular season schedule on Saturday, Nov. 7 with a 4 p.m. contest against the Stars at the Art Hauser Centre.
The full schedule has been posted on the league website, but is also subject to change once January hits as the Western Hockey League’s slate of games takes shape.
Prince Albert Titans
The Titans will begin their Prairie Junior Hockey League pre-season schedule on Saturday night as they’ll pay a visit to the Carrot River Outback Thunder.
The two sides will then square off on Saturday, Oct. 31 at 7:30 p.m at the Kinsmen Arena, before a rematch at the same venue on Friday, Nov. 6 at 7:30 p.m. to begin the regular season.
“In terms of fans that can be allowed in the building, it will be on a first-come, first-served basis,” Titans head coach and director of hockey operations Kim Dryka said.
“We’re up to 84 fans that we are allowed in the rink at this point and people can’t come into the stands until 15 minutes before the game gets underway.”
The full schedule for the Titans was released earlier this week, which is down from 40 games to 30 games for the 2020-21 campaign.
“It’s nice to have things finally set,” Dryka said. “There will be some learning curves for everyone I’m sure but as long as everyone stays safe and follows the rules, we should be able to play hockey.”
The full Pirates schedule can be seen on the PJHL website.
Prince Albert Venice House Pirates
The Pirates, who started off their pre-season with a dominant 13-2 triumph over the Humboldt Broncos, will be hosting the North East Wolfpack at the Kinsmen Arena at 6 p.m. on Saturday.
The first regular season game for the Under-15 AA club is slated for Friday, Nov. 13 at 7:30 p.m. against the Saskatoon Generals at the Art Hauser Centre
At the moment, a maximum of 150 spectators are allowed for any Pirates games at the Art Hauser Centre, with 82 spectators being the limit for Kinsmen Arena contests.
Thus far, only the November and December games are set in stone for the Pirates, which was released on their social media pages on Thursday.
The Situation Elsewhere
As return to play plans continue to take shape across Canada, there are different protocols in place for each province.
The Manitoba Under-18 AAA Hockey League is only allowing 50 people in the stands, while the teams in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League have a maximum 50 per cent capacity in place.
Over in Alberta, 100 fans is the rule that’s currently in place from Hockey Alberta, with the spectators for minor hockey games mostly being limited to family and friends.
The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has allowed fans in the stands for games in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, though the amount of spectators has varied by province and rink.
There are no fans allowed at the moment for any games in Quebec.
–With Files from Byron Hackett/Red Deer Advocate, Patrick McNeil/Cape Breton Eagles and Perry Bergson/The Brandon Sun