After getting the green light to return to play, the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League is into their pre-season or exhibition schedule.
It kicked off with the Flin Flon Bombers earning a 3-2 victory over last year’s co-coach of the year Kevin Kaminski and the La Ronge Ice Wolves. Kaminski says he and his crew were more than excited to get the news that they were returning to play.
“It’s been a very long process, just like someone stuck a broken stick right through my heart, and it was painful,” says Kaminiski, the Ice Wolves head coach and GM. “Just no news, and then finally there was a relief and the stick was pulled out and now we are planning on playing a 50 games season and we move forward here within the protocol.”
But thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, this season will be different.
There will be 50 regular-season games instead of 58, and the 12-team league will be separated into two groups of six. Those six teams will only play one another until at least Jan. 8. At the start, the number of fans allowed into each game will be 150, with everyone having to wear masks the entire time they are in the arena.
“It’s a new challenge for everybody and we have to have some patience and we have to provide some direction from the league’s point of view and the team’s point of view, and as much as we would like to open the doors and let everyone in, that’s not the way we can function right now,” says SJHL commissioner Bill Chow.
And if there is an outbreak within a team, and that team is unable to complete the 50 games schedule, the league may employ other ways to rank the teams for the playoffs, Chow said.
“When it comes to teams not playing the same games, maybe we look at — and I’m not saying this is what will happen — but maybe we just look at taking the winning percentage to determine your final standings, you know, within the league.”
The SJHL pre-season will have one team play another twice at home and twice on the road, wrapping up on Nov. 1.
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