MJHL reveals reduced schedule

The Portage Terriers celebrate with the Turnbull Cup after winning the MJHL title for the fourth time in the last five years. Austin Siragusa / Global News

The Manitoba Junior Hockey League is expected to be the first Junior A league in Canada to return to competitive play when they drop the puck on their season on Oct. 9.

The MJHL revealed a reduced schedule on Thursday for its 12 member teams.

The regular-season schedule has been significantly modified to keep players safe during the coronavirus pandemic. The usual 60-game season has been trimmed down to 40 games for the 2020-21 campaign.

Read more: The Winnipeg Freeze join the MJHL

They’re playing almost exclusively on weekends and the schedule is broken down into four five-week blocks. Each block is separated with a break in case there are COVID-19 implications.

“In the course of our planning for the upcoming season, it became clear that we had to further self-impose schedule modifications and restrictions to ensure that we were moving forward in a safe, structured and responsible manner,” commissioner Kevin Saurette said in a media release.

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“Each organization is to be commended for their absolute commitment to providing players with a safe development opportunity on and off the ice in the face of the difficult challenges ahead.”

The MJHL will play with a divisional format for the first time since the 2013-14 season. There’ll be three four-team divisions, with most of the games scheduled against divisional opponents. The move will both help limit travel and minimize the risk of exposure between teams.

The divisions are broken down geographically with the Dauphin Kings, OCN Blizzard, Swan Valley Stampeders and Waywayseecappo Wolverines to play out of the Northwest Division. The Interior Division will feature the Neepawa Natives, Portage Terriers, Virden Oil Capitals and Winkler Flyers. The Southeast Division is made up of the Winnipeg Blues, Selkirk Steelers, Steinbach Pistons and the expansion Winnipeg Freeze.

Read more: MJHL expanding as Winnipeg gets another hockey team

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The regular season concludes on March 13, 2021.

The playoff format has yet to be determined.

Read more: Manitoba Junior Hockey League sets opening date for 2020-21 season

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