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Anticipation builds for Regina Pats ahead of season opener

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The anticipation for the 2021-22 WHL season is high in Regina.

Just over a week ahead of the season opener, the Regina Pats’ brass held a press conference to express their excitement for the coming season.

“We’re back to a real situation here so I think there’s a lot of anticipation for us,” said Pats’ general manager John Paddock.

In 2020, Regina’s Brandt Centre played host to the WHL’s East Division hub. The Pats finished sixth in the division with a 9-12-2-1 record.

However, the club showed promise with rookie Connor Bedard notching 28 points in 15 games to lead the division before leaving early to represent Team Canada on the Under-18 squad.

“We can feel something coming and I think it’s certainly the same with what we saw last year from Connor and the group,” Paddock said.

Since finishing second at the Memorial Cup in 2018, which Regina hosted, the Pats have failed to make the playoffs.

“We’ve had to maintain a level of work ethic and culture and energy through a difficult three years after the Memorial Cup,” said head coach Dave Struch.

Across the country, Canadian Hockey League teams are struggling financially. In March, the Semple family and the Brandt group of companies became the exclusive owners of the Pats. They maintain they’re committed to the team.

“It’s a hard business at the best of times,” owner Shaun Semple said. “With no fans and no revenue. It’s been a challenge, but we’re willing to obviously keep investing.”

Ticket prices rose an average of four dollars per seat this season, according to Semple. It wasn’t clear if that trend will continue.

“As far as the future goes, I can’t tell you. I know the costs go up every year like most businesses so they may go up,” Semple said.

As of Oct. 1, fans and spectators attending all indoor events on the Regina Exhibition Association Limited campus, including Pats games, will be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to attend.

Paddock says the team is 100 per cent vaccinated, which is a WHL mandate, but members aren’t required to get tested for COVID-19 under current protocols.

“There’s a responsibility for the players to mention if they’re feeling something, so then we deal with it accordingly,” Paddock said.

The Regina Pats have made arrangements on their own to have players receive schooling at the rink to minimize the risk of transmission due to being in schools.

“I’m not too worried about it,” said Pats player Jakob Brook. “I think the league’s got a good protocol set in place.”

The Pats are 2-2 so far in the pre-season. They head to Moose Jaw Friday for a home and home this weekend, then open the regular season on Oct. 1 in Prince Albert. 

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