Saskatchewan WHL teams, SJHL receiving funding from province

Nolan Foote of the Kelowna Rockets, middle, vies for the puck between Prince Albert defenceman Jeremy Masella, left, and left winger Justin Nachbaur, right, during WHL action on Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. The Saskatchewan government said the province’s WHL teams and the SJHL need funding in order to survive the challenges they face due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lucas Chudleigh / Apollo Multimedia

Western Hockey League (WHL) teams in the province and the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) are receiving financial support from the provincial government.

The Saskatchewan government said Friday the leagues and teams need the funding in order to survive the challenges they face due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more: Western Hockey League teams still waiting, weighing options

“Our junior hockey teams are a critical part of the cultural fabric and local economies across the province,” Trade and Export Development Minister Jeremy Harrison said in a statement.

“Necessary restrictions due to COVID-19 have had a significant impact on these leagues and their teams and this support will help them address these financial challenges.”

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Saskatchewan’s five WHL teams will each receive $600,000 to help with revenue shortfalls.

The league suspended its 2019-20 season in March 2020 and has yet to start the 2020-21 season due to the pandemic.

WHL commissioner Ron Robison said this is having a devastating impact on the teams.

“Our WHL clubs are a vital source of community pride and major economic driver in Swift Current, Moose Jaw, Prince Albert, Regina and Saskatoon,” Robison said in a statement.

“The support from the government of Saskatchewan will not only allow the teams to remain viable but will ensure we can continue to provide a world-class development and educational experience for our players.”

Robison said earlier this month that the league is waiting to hear from health officials about a return to play and is hopeful for a 24-game season.

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The SJHL is receiving $1 million in funding from the province.

“The SJHL, which consists of community-owned teams, has been in a state of uncertainty due to COVID-19 during the past several months,” SJHL president Bill Chow said in a release.

“The financial support that has been provided by the Saskatchewan government creates a more positive outlook for our teams.”

Read more: SJHL season paused until 2021 due to COVID-19

The SJHL started its 2020-21 season on Nov. 6, but less than a month later the season was paused due to the pandemic.

Under Saskatchewan’s current public health order, sports leagues and activities remain suspended until at least Jan. 29.

Government officials said they continue to work with the WHL and the SJHL, along with other sports leagues, on options for a safe return to play.