Calgary Hitmen players and staff are currently in quarantine ahead of the shortened WHL season, but when they come out, they won’t be going to the Saddledome.
The team has opted to temporarily move to the Seven Chiefs Sportsplex on Tsuut’ina Nation.
The move out of the Saddledome is required in accordance with NHL and AHL COVID-19 protocols governing the Calgary Flames and Stockton Heat.
Not only will the Hitmen have a new rink, players and select staff will also be housed at the Grey Eagle Resort to reduce their contact with the outside world.
“That, honestly, was our most difficult decision,” Hitmen vice-president Mike Moore said.
“Our billets are our lifeblood. It is home away from home for our guys here. They are family to us… but we just felt that trying to eliminate and reduce our core group as tight as we possibly can would give us the best chance of success.”
The WHL has received provincial approval to ice a 24-game season where the five Alberta-based clubs will only play each other with no fans in the building. B.C., Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the U.S. have not yet been granted permission to play.
The new schedule allows for a maximum of one opponent per week, with a five-day break prior to playing a new opponent. In between games, players will undergo plenty of tests and use an app to report how they’re feeling.
“We will be testing once a week, testing right off the get-go” Moore added. “The players have a 28-day lead-in. They quarantined at home for seven days, quarantine when they get here for seven days, have two PCR tests, and then training camp for 14 days.
“Then we test every week, including training camp and when we play.”
The Hitmen are scheduled for an opening weekend bye, and begin play on Friday, March 5.