The Saga Continues As Hockey Tries To Salvage Itself

Hockey continues to have issues in trying to get a season going, but seems to have issues.The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League posted a few items this past week on their website that reflected how tough it is to run events.  

The Saskatchewan Jr Hockey League and the Flin Flon Bombers have been having discussions with Health Authorities in both Manitoba and Saskatchewan, as well as with representatives of the Saskatchewan Government, since Manitoba was deemed a Red Zone due to the increasing numbers of COVID-19.  

Keeping the health of their players and communities in mind, the Bombers have exhausted all avenues to finding a solution to play, which included alternative venues for them to practice and play. 

With that, the Flin Flon Bombers have decided to pause their season and resume play after the Christmas break. 

With the postponement of Melfort’s and Flin Flon’s games this weekend, the following scheduling changes have been made:

The Battlefords at La Ronge game originally scheduled for Jan. 19, 2021 will now be played this Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. Game time will be at 7pm in La Ronge. 

The La Ronge at Battlefords game originally scheduled for Feb. 10, 2021 will now be played this Sat. Nov. 28, 2020. Game time will be at 7:30pm in North Battleford. 

The Melfort Mustangs and the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League are postponing this weekends games between Melfort and Battlefords due to a COVID-19 exposure. 

The player in question has been isolated and the organization is following all direct protocols from the health authorities. 

The Saturday, November 21st game between Melfort and La Ronge was also postponed due to the same COVID-19 exposure. 

The Melfort Mustangs can resume hockey activities on Sunday, November 29th. 

Due to the privacy of this matter, there will be no further comments. 

Flin Flon, although in Manitoba, is virtually next door to Saskatchewan and so plays in the SJHL.  

The Manitoba Junior League posted this article from the commissioner:

To our Fans, Sponsors & Hockey Community… 

The Manitoba Junior Hockey League along with all of you have been faced with an unprecedented set of circumstances which challenge our way of life. 

Along with all Manitoba Businesses and Community groups we worked shoulder to shoulder with our Government Liaisons and Public Health Authorities to put in place protocols that would keep our employee’s, players, and patrons safe. 

We worked diligently with Hockey Canada, Sport Manitoba and Hockey Manitoba to put in extensive Hockey specific protocols which would allow us to Return to Play in a safe manner, while balancing the Social/Mental/Physical health and safety of our Players, Staff and general public. 

We have shown without question that the Manitoba Junior Hockey League can offer hockey in a safe environment. 

Since early summer, we worked diligently to put develop a phased in approach for Return to Play Protocols which have been incorporated by minor hockey and across the Junior Hockey Leagues in Canada. 

We have been leaders throughout through our efforts to help allow hockey to be played in a safe and structured environment. 

We were the first Junior Hockey League in Canada to receive approvals across the various regulating authorities to resume the game of hockey. 

All of our member teams have been successful in their contribution to the Social, Mental, Physical, and economic fabric of our Communities. 

We are going to regroup, refocus, and reflect on what has worked well this season to date and areas for improvement. 

We appreciate your support and understanding when we return better than ever. 

Kevin Saurette 
MJHL Commissioner 

Out west in Alberta, the issues have been forcing many rescheduled games. Weather has been a problem for some games due to blowing snow and treacherous conditions, some have been due to positive tests. 

To identify the COVID issues, the AJHL has a separate link for this only. Here is the rundown on this: 

November 22, 202 – The Okotoks Oilers will continue to follow the required AHS protocols after receiving a positive COVID-19 test and will not be returning to play until December 3rd. For privacy reasons, no further details will be provided. 

The Olds Grizzlys will be pausing all activities until December 3rd as a precautionary measure.  All Grizzlys games have been cancelled through to December 3rd and schedule updates will follow. 

November 21, 2020 – The Drumheller Dragons will continue to follow the required AHS protocols after a positive COVID-19 case and will not be returning to play until December 3rd. Home games scheduled for November 27th & December 1st have been cancelled. For privacy reasons, no further comments will be provided. 

November 20, 2020 – A member of the Calgary Canucks has tested positive for COVID-19. The team will activate the required AHS protocols. The League schedule will be adjusted as required, including the cancelation of Calgary Canucks games. For privacy reasons, no further comments will be provided. 

November 19, 2020 – A member of the AJHL’s Canmore Eagles has tested positive for COVID-19. The team will activate the required AHS protocols. The League schedule will be adjusted as required.  For privacy reasons, no further comments will be provided.

The BCHL has had many issues including their lone US team. The BCHL released the following on their website: 

The Wenatchee Wild announced today that the franchise is taking a hiatus for the 2020-21 BCHL season, due to complications caused by the closure of the American-Canadian border and restrictions put in place by the State of Washington due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As of this morning, the Wild have released all players on their roster to give them on opportunity to play elsewhere this year. 

“This is a sad day for the Wenatchee Wild organization,” said team General Manager Bliss Littler. “We feel for our players, housing families, fans, season ticket holders, corporate sponsors and the Town Toyota Center. It’s not a good day for any of us. This will hurt for a while for sure, but I know we will get through this and we will be back better than ever for the 2021-2022 season.” 

“I will challenge the hockey operations staff building next year’s team to recruit harder and smarter than ever. We will challenge our front office to upgrade everything we do. We are proud of the show we put on right now, but want make it the most entertaining event in junior hockey.” 

The BCHL announced yesterday that they have delayed the start of their 2020-21 regular season to Dec. 8. The league will announce a schedule with the 17 other franchises in the coming weeks. 

“The BCHL is very sad that circumstances beyond the control of our valued franchise, the Wenatchee Wild, have caused this shutdown,” said Chairman of the BCHL Board of Governors, Graham Fraser. “We wish Bliss Littler and his staff the very best as they get to work on getting back on the ice for the 2021-22 season.” 

The Wild are the league’s lone American franchise and joined the BCHL for the 2015-16 season. In just their third season in the league, Wenatchee captured its first Fred Page Cup championship in the 2017-18 season and went on to play in the RBC Cup national championship tournament. 

In accordance with the BCHL COVID-19 Safety Plan, approved by the Board of Governors, the League will adhere to Provincial Health Office (PHO) orders and schedule no games between now and midnight on Dec. 7. 

The result of this decision, recommended by the BCHL Return to Play Task Force, will push the regular season start date of Dec. 2 to Dec. 8 to accommodate the new orders against team travel. 

It also means that the remainder of the exhibition schedule has been cancelled. 

“If the PHO extends their current restrictions beyond Dec. 7, we have the option of moving the start date to after the holidays, but it is our intention to begin play once the current order expires”, said BCHL Commissioner Chris Hebb. “Our objective from the beginning, when we worked out our COVID-19 Safety Plan with the PHO, was to allow our players to have a season, but we want to make sure it is under the safest conditions possible.” 

“Should the season start be delayed past Dec. 8, the players that choose to go home for the holidays will be required to adhere to travel guidelines, including going into isolation for 14 days prior to joining their team,” said league Executive Director Steven Cocker. 

A revised regular-season schedule will be released in the coming weeks for a Dec. 8 start. 

At this point, no one is certain if fan attendance will be permitted and to what extent.  

To the WHL which still hopes to put out a season starting January 8, 2021. Currently, the State of Washington has a freeze until December 14 and the State of Oregon until December 1. WHL continues to talk about fans sitting in the stands. It seems that the feeling by many is the games if they happen will have to air as streaming as they can’t get that many bodies into a building. 

To further put a stamp on it, the Rose Quarter has announced the Portland Trail Blazers will start December 22, but will do their games without fans in attendance. This plays tough for the Portland Winterhawks who have announced that amy games would be played at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. If indeed January 8 is a start date, this gives them just about a month before the start of the announced, scheduled season. As yet, an owner of the Winterhawks has not been announced. 

It will be even tighter in Washington State, where December 14 has been announced as a freeze. This would give the four teams just 25 days to get everything ready for the start.  

Of course the big issue is the border. No one know as yet when it will open and to what degree. 

The QMJHL have had problems in continuity. They have posted two alerts in the past very short bit. 

The Halifax Mooseheads have recorded a positive COVID-19 test among the staff and are suspending team in-person activities. 

The league issued a memo to Mooseheads’ executives in which it outlined the following steps to take in accordance with COVID-19 protocols. However, the infected person didn’t have any contact with players or hockey staff. 

  • Players and staff will now be preventively isolated;
  • Members of the organization who have been in contact with the infected person will be tested;
  • Public Health Officials have been contacted by the League. They are exploring the nature of all contacts between players and staff. Any additional findings will be shared with the team and the League.

Therefore, the following games are postponed even though Public Health Officials from Nova Scotia have not required it at this time. 

The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League postponed seven games scheduled for this week in the Maritimes Division. The decision was made after the announcement of new restrictions by Public Health Officials of Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. 

With Quebec now in a bubble with seven teams and the Maritimes unable to compete for at least a week if not longer, the league is starting to run out of time in it’s hope to keep as many games on the schedule leading to a Memorial Cup. 

The OHL extended its breathing room when it announced a couple of weeks back that February 4 would be its start date and still lead to the Memorial Cup. It has some time to play with as we go through what is going to be for certain high case counts what with holidays and so on and it will be interesting if the post holidays will see the reduction in case counts needed to loosen some of the heavy restrictions currently wrapped on the OHL when it comes to body checking and more. 

The latest on the World Junior Hockey Tournament which is to be held in Edmonton and Red Deer is set to start in mid December in a bubble atmosphere. It appears that it will now be just Edmonton as the host of the games and without fans. The Christmastime event is huge revenue to a worldwide audience looking for something to watch during the holidays. The games have been moved to start on Christmas Day as opposed to December 26 and will air on TSN in Canada and various networks like the NHL Channel in the US.  

Canada has had to stop intrasquad games due to a positive test and while this has no full bearing on the actual tournament, shows how delicate the balance is when it comes to this. Hockey is one of those games where close contact and bodily fluids intertwine and makes it extremely difficult to keep separation  so it’s chances of positives are much higher than other games and events.  

It will be interesting to see if any of these leagues are able to run without issue. Time is all people have at this point as everyone figures out how to wrap their collective heads around the case and death issues with this virus. 

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About Stuart Kemp 364 Articles
Stuart Kemp is the Immediate Past President of 15 years of the Booster Club. and has been following hockey from his native Canada since he can remember, though he can't skate, but played road hockey for several years. Loving hockey and professional wrestling, he has traveled to most of the WHL cities and with wrestling, has seen four provinces and five states. It is true that every Canadian city with more than 500 residents has a hockey rink, well at least it looks that way. Stuart has had his hand in every facet of independent Professional wrestling as he debuted as an announcer in 1986 which started his career.