Saskatchewan Hockey Association issues warning to non-sanctioned leagues

A group called the Sask Elite Hockey League is trying to put together a new league in the province outside of Saskatchewan Hockey Association governance.

League says coaches who leave for non-sanctioned hockey 'will be indefinitely barred'

The SHA says players that go to a non-sancitoned league will have to play at a lower tier than their previous season if they return to the SHA. (Lorraine Swanson/Shutterstock)

A group called the Sask Elite Hockey League is trying to put together a new league in the province outside of Saskatchewan Hockey Association (SHA) governance.

Kelly McClintock, general manager of the SHA, said he's not surprised at the move, but wants parents to know that leaving the SHA will not get their kids games.

"That's fine if they want to go ahead, but your guidelines are still going to be the same whether you're with Saskatchewan hockey or not. You can't play games," he said.

McClintock said the Sask Elite Hockey League tried to form last year but failed to get going. As a result the SHA amended its rules last year to prevent coaches and players from flip-flopping between leagues.

In a letter posted on Aug. 14, 2020, the SHA outlined penalties for coaches going over to a different league.

"Any individual functioning in the capacity of a team officials/team or league administrators/officials (referees or linesman) within a non-sanctioned entity as determined by the SHA will be indefinitely barred as a member of the SHA," the letter said.

McClintock said these amendments were necessary for the SHA to protect its investments.

"We cover the costs of all the coaching clinics and all the modules for Hockey Canada. And we spent a couple hundred thousand dollars a year on coaching development," he said. 

"If we're doing that for these coaches to then just up and leave to go to an unsanctioned program, then you're not going to be able to coach any [SHA] programming."

The Sask Elite Hockey League said in a statement it was going ahead with a new league so people have another option.

"In many other minor sports there are multiple leagues allowing players, coaches and volunteers to choose without being punished as I'm sure you are aware SHA has indicated they will try," the statement reads.

"Other provinces have very successful leagues.… Our league will provide a quality, sustainable option for parents to have a choice."

Players impacts

The SHA letter also included penalties for players who go outside the association. 

"Any player who participates with a non-sanctioned program after September 30th of the current year and wishes to return to SHA sanctioned programming, must apply for a concession from the SHA Registration Committee for re-instatement," it said.

Returning players will have to play a tier lower than they were playing in the other league, McClintock said, and would not be able to play in the highest tier of the league they are returning to.

"Everyone's welcome to come back, but you know, hockey is a privilege, it's not a right." 

The Sask Elite Hockey League is looking for players and coaches for the 2020/21 season. (Fiona Odlum)

Pandemic insurance

Insurance would be one of the barriers for any new league, McClintock said.

The SHA is governed by Hockey Canada, which holds the insurance for the league, including pandemic insurance. This is important right now as some smaller municipalities may not have that clause in their policy.

McClintock said a new league would not have the financial backing to afford pandemic insurance, limiting the arenas it would be allowed to play in. 

Provincial rules, not SHA rules

The SHA is working with the provincial government and the Saskatchewan Health Authority to determine a date for games and tournaments.

The decision to restrict game play was made by the province in accordance with the chief medical health officer, McClintock said. 

"We can't play games. That's that's not a Saskatchewan Hockey decision. That is the provincial government decision."

All non-sanctioned leagues would also have to adhere to the provincial guidelines, McClintock said. 

"They'll have to deal with the provincial government."

Cross-border games

Rules about inter-provincial travel would also apply to non-sanctioned teams. Currently Alberta has followed a model similar to Saskatchewan, stating the fall season will be used for skill development and play between "cohorts," with no interprovincial travel for tournaments and games until the new year.

As of Aug. 19, Hockey Manitoba says it is entering Phase 2 of its return to play plan. It has also tightened up the rules on interprovincial travel, saying that "along with tournaments, it will not accept any requests for out-of-province travel until Oct. 15, and travel won't be granted until after Nov. 1." That includes teams travelling into the province.

Summer free-for-all

There are summer leagues in Saskatchewan that are not sanctioned by the SHA. This year, many leagues didn't happen due to the pandemic, but some did. Some even travelled outside of the province to play in tournaments.

Teams that travelled out of province were not met with any penalties from the government. McClintock said he hopes that if players and coaches are identified as having broken the interprovincial travel ban for tournament play, they will be disciplined.

McClintock said he is sympathetic to the players and parents.

"You know people are getting a little panicky because they hear they can't play games right now and so they starting thinking they can create new alternatives for their kids," he said.

He warned that launching a new league in a time of uncertainty could have lasting consequences.


  • A previous version of this story stated games and tournaments would be on hold until Jan. 1. In fact, a date for games and tournaments is still to be determined.
    Aug 21, 2020 3:33 PM CT


Fiona Odlum

CBC Staffer

Fiona is a contributor at CBC Saskatchewan. She is from Winnipeg, Manitoba and that is where she started her broadcasting career over 15 years ago. Fiona has done everything from traffic reporting in a helicopter, to breaking news, anchoring and hosting talk radio across the country and telling weather stories.


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