Sask. minor hockey games not expected to return until September after pandemic restrictions extended
Restrictions, including banning hockey games, were extended this week until March 19
The Saskatchewan Hockey Association says it doesn't expect minor hockey seasons to resume until at least September after pandemic restrictions were extended this week.
The province extended public health restrictions until at least March 19 this week. No hockey games are permitted under the current guidelines. Players 18 years and younger can practise and train in groups of eight if they use masks and physically distance from others. Coaches aren't included in the eight-person count.
"It's pretty safe to say that we're not going to be having any hockey games," Kelly McClintock, general manager of Saskatchewan Hockey Association said.
- At least 22 COVID-19 outbreaks linked to Sask. hockey teams, leagues or curling clubs in less than 4 weeks
McClintock said the association hasn't officially cancelled the season, but it's something the board will be looking at right away. The regular season normally goes until March 31 and into April if needed.
He said teams were fortunate to have tryouts and practices, and to play games without masks or physical distancing from September to November 2020. Since November, coaches have been rotating the practice groups of eight, but McClintock said it's different.
"The mindset in our hockey culture is people want to play games, they want to see the fruit of the practice," McClintock said. "I think the majority of our membership is happy with the ability to practise, but they want to be able to take it to the next step. And that's just the unfortunate part."
I think and hope that we're at levels where we can start our September season.- Kelly McClintock
McClintock said the association is now focusing on becoming as prepared as possible to start in September, if all goes well.
"I'm hoping by September, you know, there's a lot more people vaccinated, there's a lot less fear," he said. "I think and hope that we're at levels where we can start our September season."
McClintock says 'bubble' positive news for WHL
Recently the provincial government granted the Western Hockey League permission for junior hockey members to play in a bubble in Regina. McClintock said it's positive news for those players, but isn't sure a bubble format could work for minor hockey.
"Minor hockey parents and kids are upset that they can't play but … I know I might struggle if I was a coach and I had a young family and that I've got to go away for possibly 45 to 60 days and basically quarantined within a bubble," McClintock said. "There's a trade off."
With files from Laura Sciarpelletti and Heidi Atter