Here's a look at the rules for the WHL's hub in Regina
REGINA -- Hockey players on Saskatchewan and Manitoba Western Hockey League teams will soon travel to Regina to join the league's hub format. The East Division's intended start date of Mar. 12 will mark 366 days since the Regina Pats have played competitive hockey.
“I think it’s excitement for the organization, I think it’s actually excitement for the city,” said John Paddock, general manager of the Regina Pats.
All of the East Division games will be played at the Brandt Centre. Practices will be held in the adjacent Co-operators Centre and will not disrupt any minor hockey programming. The Pats will be the only team with the luxury of playing in their home facilities. Paddock said it will add to the groups' comfort, but will not be a huge advantage.
“It’s certainly good for the players to go to their own dressing room, we’ll have a little bit more facilities to do a bit of other training,” Paddock said.
However, given government border restrictions, the entire roster will not be permitted to return to play. After negotiating with the federal government since September, junior players from Europe are not allowed to play this season.
Some players from the United States have been granted student visas. Others have dual citizenship that will allow them to participate, while others will not be permitted to play in Canada.
Many teams will carry larger rosters for player development purposes.
“We have two or three players that we think highly of that are going to be on the team next year and this will be a way to get them some exposure and some experience,” Paddock offered.
The general manager has not received a schedule from the league yet but predicts there could be at least one game every day.
“It’ll be (likely) a game every two days, so I’m thinking it’ll be around 50 days from the start time,” Paddock said about the length of the hub.
Players from the seven East Division teams will begin a self-quarantine on Feb. 20, then report to Regina on Feb. 27. They will be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival and then undergo an additional quarantine period. A second COVID-19 test will be required before players can engage in any team activities.
Tests will be administered weekly. If any players or staff of teams test positive for COVID-19, the entire team will suspend activities for a minimum of 14 days. The WHL said tests are provided through a private lab, so no additional strain is placed on the public health system.
Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League president Bill Chow said he’s grateful WHL commissioner Ron Robison gave the SJHL access to the WHL’s return to play document, which was approved by the Saskatchewan Health Authority. The SJHL is reviewing it in the hopes of resuming its season.
“It’s beneficial to us to reflect as much as possible on that document as much as we can,” Chow said.
However, the SJHL’s pockets are not as deep as the WHL.
“If we had the resources similar to the Western Hockey League then we would just simply follow the blueprint that’s been made,” Chow added.
Chow said that their situation is fluid and evolving. The SJHL is hoping COVID-19 rates decrease and restrictions ease, but they would not do a one-city hub like the WHL.
“Depending upon what the outcome is but probably 2 or 3 hubs in some rural communities,” Chow revealed. “It would be in locations of our teams, obviously the amenities have to be there. Our challenge moving ahead is communities will be considering or removing ice very shortly.”
The SJHL has not established a date to either move ahead or cancel the season.
“Time is of the essence and time is getting near where there is going to be a drop dead date,” Chow said.