REGINA -- On Friday, hockey teams in Saskatchewan will not be permitted to play games and engage in competition.

The Saskatchewan Government announced the new COVID-19 restrictions on Wednesday, mere weeks after many minor hockey programs in the province resumed competition for the first time since March 2020.

“Not happy, but I guess it’s for everyone’s best interest,” said Junior Bergen, a hockey parent in Regina.

Another parent, Christie Litzenberger, added, “I feel really bad for the kids, I just feel like they’re getting a lot taken away from them.”

More than 2,600 athletes compete with Regina Minor Hockey. Hailey Turcotte is one of them and is frustrated by the constantly changing restrictions.

“[The government] shouldn’t have started us in the beginning then, [they] should have waited for it to clear up a little bit better,” Turcotte said.

Blair Watson is the executive director of Hockey Regina and wasn’t shocked at the decision.

“Frustration, I guess is the biggest thing that we’re getting from us and our membership,” Watson said.

He added that Hockey Regina believes hockey was an easy target for Sask Health because pausing it doesn’t affect the economy, unlike shutting down businesses.

“Recreational sports is the easy, low hanging fruit,” Watson observed.

Athletes under the age of 18 can continue to practice, however, only in groups of eight or less. They also must stay separated by at least three meters of distance, which has its challenges for contact sports like hockey.

Previously at the Co-operators Centre, as many as two teams could practice on a single ice rink depending on their age level. Now, only a third of a hockey team with a roster of 24 will be allowed on the ice at a time.

Ice rentals will cost the same as before, but with limited players allowed on the ice, Watson estimates 50 per cent of teams in Regina minor hockey won’t train due to financial restrictions.

“$250 an hour with eight kids on the ice, that’s an expensive practice,” Watson offered.

Some parents believe the hockey shutdown could have been avoided.

“I kind of wonder if some of the precautions that needed to be put in place maybe could have been done sooner,” said Litzenberger. “Maybe we could have curved the numbers going as high as they’re starting to right now.”

Hockey Regina notes that everybody at the Co-operators Centre has been diligent at wearing their masks and limiting their time at the arena before and after games.

The Saskatchewan Hockey Association had previously scheduled a competition break from Dec. 17 to Jan. 1. Now teams are hoping 2021 brings a new hockey direction.