Hockey organizations considering all options for 2020-21 season following memo from Sask Hockey

Daily Herald File Photo The Battlefords Sharks and Prince Albert Northern Bears square off at the Art Hauser Centre on Nov. 21, 2020.

While no cancellations have been made as of yet, the Saskatchewan Hockey Association released a memo on Thursday that was far from what hockey enthusiasts in the province wanted to hear.

The SHA said that during a conversation with Ken Dueck, who is the Provincial Sport Governing Bodies representative for the Provincial Government’s Business Response Team, it was announced that there would be no consideration of return to play plans for at least four weeks and that a return to game play is unlikely to happen before the end of March.

“This certainly was not the news that the SHA, nor all other winter sports was expecting,” SHA general manager Kelly McClintock said in a prepared statement. “With the current rate of positive cases per 100,000 people placing Saskatchewan near the top in Canada, the likelihood of things changing before the end of March is looking bleak.

“The SHA is currently reviewing the state of the game and intend on conducting Zone Meetings for MHA, Minor/Female/Senior Leagues within the next two weeks.”

Prince Albert Hockey technical director James Mays said on Thursday that it was expected that games weren’t expected to restart locally until the middle of February, even before the latest COVID-19 restrictions in the province were announce on Tuesday.

“We’re still looking at a two-week isolation period if the restrictions are lifted on Jan. 29 and the earliest games would start is still the middle of February, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed in that regard,” Mays said. “If things aren’t possible until the end of March, then that will force a lot of people to make decisions on if they want to keep practicing for eight weeks or if it’s time to cut bait.

“We’re keeping all options open at the moment. We’re looking at playing into April, but we’re not sure if the rinks will still be open then. The kids from the Under-13 level down are still excited about practicing and being on the ice, but the kids you feel bad for are the ones at Under-15 and Under-18, especially at the house league level. They didn’t sign up to practice, they want to play games with their buddies.”

Another organization that’s currently considering all options is the seven-team Saskatchewan Female Under-18 AAA Hockey League, which last played a game on Nov. 22, 2020.

The circuit, which includes the Prince Albert Northern Bears, were holding a meeting tonight to discuss their plans for the rest of the season.

“It’s probably going to take a few days before we decide anything, as there’s going to be different questions that pop up, such as what happens with spring camps for the 2021-22 season if the current season is extended into April,” league president Blaine Stork said. “I think everyone is assuming that things will be better in April, but we’ll have to wait and see.

“We’re crossing our fingers that we can get a few games in, especially for our graduating players. I know from our last meeting in December, everyone as staying that it would be nice to get a handful of games in so that we can give those players some more game film that they can use as they try to find a place to play next season.”