Extension of public health order means Saskatchewan hockey season is effectively done

The buzzer has basically sounded on the chance of there being any minor hockey games being played in Saskatchewan this winter.

Saskatchewan Hockey Association General Manager Kelly McClintock says the decision this week to extend the public health order until March 19 basically closes the gate on a season.

“We were given the heads-up about six weeks ago from the government that the chance of games before the end of March were slim to none, so this doesn’t come as a surprise. “McClintock said. “While numbers are getting better, they really weren’t changing so I wasn’t expecting things to change.  It’s frustrating because you see the disappointment from kids who want to play and parents who want their kids to play especially in areas that have been basically COVID-free.  It is disappointing, but at the same time I feel fortunate when I see what is happening in other provinces.  In Manitoba, you couldn’t skate in an indoor facility for three months, you couldn’t play in Ontario or Quebec.  Some provinces have stricter guidelines than us and those provinces and other sports bodies in Saskatchewan were jealous of what we were doing because they weren’t.”

McClintock says the frustration that is being felt is certainly understood especially when those responsible for keeping everyone safe was doing so.

“I think our minor hockey, junior and senior teams did a fantastic job as a whole for the three or four weeks that we were playing games.” McClintock said. “Since the word came down that we couldn’t play games, but could still practice we have had no notification of transmission or positive cases so that’s probably where the frustration is highest because they followed guidelines and they still can’t play.  That is the disappointing part.

Some are wondering how it can be that WHL hockey will be played at the Brandt Centre as the seven Eastern Division clubs converge in a hub city yet minor hockey, the SJHL, Junior B and midget leagues aren’t playing.  McClintock says he is OK with the hub city approach and believes that is much better than what is happening in Alberta where Central Division teams are travelling.

He says people need to understand there is a difference between minor hockey and the WHL.

“You have to tell people that a novice hockey game and a Western Hockey League game in a bubble and the conditions being put on the players and teams are radically different. You can’t compare the two.” McClintock said. “The WHL players are going to be living in a room by themselves for weeks, they will be eating alone, they won’t have joint team meetings, they won’t have big-down buffet meals like you normally do.  Like at the World Juniors, kids sat in their rooms for many days. If they weren’t at the rink, they were in their room so how do you expect a nine year-old, an 11-year-old or a 13-year-old to do the same thing.  There are a lot of sacrifices being made that people aren’t aware of.

While the curtain can be closed for this year, McClintock says it is important to start making plans now for 2021-22 as the game needs to be front and center again even though registration numbers this year were solid. He says contingency plans are in place starting in April that can be adjusted if necessary.


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