When the puck drops on Oct. 2 at the Brandt Centre, it will be the first Regina Pats home game with fans in the building since March 11, 2020 — nearly 19 months ago.
The Pats hosted a kick off event for members of the media on Thursday as the Western Hockey League club prepares for the 2021-2022 season.
This season will undoubtedly be a special one for everyone.
“It will be great to see us play hockey again in front of fans,” said team owner Shaun Semple, who became the principal owner of the club along with his father Gavin Semple in March.
“Obviously, we had the hub here last year which was great hockey, but there’s nothing better than playing in front of fans.”
While the club played an already shortened 2020-2021 season in a bubble with other Eastern Division teams earlier this year in Regina, Pats fans had to watch or listen to their team’s games instead of catching the action live.
Semple admitted it has been a challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic with no fans or revenue rolling in. However, he said they remain committed to bringing the team back to a level where it can compete for hardware.
“We didn’t get into this business to make money. We got into it as a community initiative to really bring a winner back to Regina,” Semple added.
“We came close a couple years ago during the Memorial Cup and we hope we can do that over the next couple years.”
Semple, who serves as CEO of the Brandt Group of Companies, announced two new community initiatives for the upcoming campaign.
The first is a fundraiser which will benefit local Regina-based charities and not-for-profit groups.
In addition, Brandt is committing $220,000 in matching funds based on contributions from fans and sponsors who donate at 11 weekday games through the group’s Thanks a Billion program.
Brandt and the Pats are also recognizing workers from a number of front-line sectors by sending 3,000 individuals to Pats games this season.
The team does start the season on Oct. 1 against the Raiders in Prince Albert, Sask., but the squads will then head south to the Queen City for a rematch the following night.
Proof of vaccination at Pats games
In following the province’s updated public health measures, the organization has announced COVID-19 verification mandates for its home games this season.
Beginning Oct. 1, a day prior to the Pats’ home opener, visitors 12 years of age and older to the Brandt Centre will be required to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test result in order to enter the building.
Fans 12 and under are exempt from vaccination proof or negative test requirements. While youth 12 to 17 do not need to show photo ID, they still must show vaccination proof.
“We are working closely with Regina Exhibition Association Limited (REAL) to ensure our fans have clear direction on requirements and logistics for game attendance, starting with the home opener,” stated Pats COO Trevor Buhnai. “The priority is to keep our fans safe and healthy as we welcome them back home.”
According to REAL, valid proof of vaccination includes a Saskatchewan issued QR code on a mobile device, a screenshot or printed sheet off a person’s MySaskHealthRecord account, a wallet immunization card received at the time of vaccination or photo ID coupled with approved vaccine records.
A non-Saskatchewan resident will be asked to show an official provincially or territorially recognized vaccine record along with government ID.
Masking rules in accordance with provincial health measures will also need to be followed, according to the club.
More information regarding game day logistics will be announced by REAL and the team next week.
Vaccination among Pats players
Back on Aug. 16, the WHL announced a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy for all roster players, officials and hockey operations staff, along with other team and WHL office personnel.
The policy requires those individuals to be fully vaccinated with a Health Canada approved COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days before the start of the campaign.
“We’re fully vaccinated now, and as the summer went on before we were given the protocol, we were pretty well all set then,” shared John Paddock, general manager and vice president of hockey operations for the Pats.
He said there will be a responsibility for players to mention if they feel ill, however, testing will be conducted among clubs throughout the year.
The WHL administered COVID-19 tests during the 2020-2021 season when teams played in their respective hubs.