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Coronavirus: SJHL teams practise patience during waiting game for 2020-21 season

Teams in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) are waiting for a decision about when can safely lace up for a 2020-21 season.
Teams in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) are waiting for a decision about when can safely lace up for a 2020-21 season. File / Global News

It’s a waiting game for teams in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

Meetings have been taking place and are still ongoing to decide when and if the players can safely lace up for a 2020-21 season.

Melville Millionaires general manager (GM) and head coach Mike Rooney said on Thursday that there was a tentative schedule set to start on Sept. 25.

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“We met a number of weeks ago and we put together a schedule as a league, we had our scheduling meetings and Sept. 25th is the date that we have to start,” he said.

“There’s a constant moving target and we have to listen to Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) and what they come up with and what they advise… and, as of right now, we’re just waiting (for) some more confirmation.

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“It’s a constant moving target… and it’s been a long, arduous process for staff and for teams but this is a health issue. This is a, not even a Saskatchewan issue, it’s a world issue. So we have to be mindful and nobody wants to play hockey more than the hockey players and the hockey coaches but we have to be careful with it.”

In the meantime, Rooney said his junior “A” hockey club plans to start training camp on Sept. 10.

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“We have our training camp planned, and once again, we can be somewhat restricted or may have to change depending upon what (SHA) does but we would have a small camp, bring our players in and just go as usual,” he said.

“And if the season gets pushed back, we also have … a kind of an auxiliary plan where we continue to train our players. Our players will have the opportunity to continue to do what they need to do to develop… the only thing that changes is we don’t have any hockey games.

“Lots of (sports) going on right now that are doing things under COVID protocol and making out just fine. We will do our due diligence in making sure we have a sound protocol and keep our players safe.”

Sask. family riding out pandemic while bull riding in backyard
Sask. family riding out pandemic while bull riding in backyard

Scott Barney, the GM and head coach of the Humboldt Broncos, is also waiting on the green light from health officials and the league before telling players they can come back to the rink.

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“We got to follow what their policy is going to be and obviously first and foremost, they’re looking out for the health and well-being of all the athletes and people involved within the rink,” Barney said.

“So I think once we hear a clear … message from them, then we’ll go forward here. But as of right now, just kind of stay status quo.

“They’ve been meeting weekly and we just keep getting our updates through the league. And then obviously everybody’s getting a little impatient. But I think patience is a must at this time and… everybody wishes we had the crystal ball but there’s so many grey areas.”

Read more: SJHL season suspended over coronavirus concerns

Aside from ensuring player, staff and community safety, Barney said he’s itching to get back behind the bench.

“For sure. I know our players are and obviously fans are in the community and, obviously, now with NHL games on TV. People are excited about hockey again… you don’t get too often watch five playoff games on TV all day long,” Barney said.

“There’s a lot of hockey on there right now. Obviously, yeah, excited to get back and we got a lot of returning players and I know they’re excited to get the season going here as well.”

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Another meeting about the 2020-21 season is expected to take place next week.

Last season, the remaining SJHL action on the ice was cancelled on March 13 due to the pandemic.

Founded in 1968, the SJHL is now comprised of 12 community-based teams across the province.