Regina Pats anxious to get back on the ice as WHL announces December return to play
REGINA -- The Regina Pats will have a much longer-than-usual off-season before the team is able to get back on the ice in 2020.
In a release Thursday, the WHL said it is scheduled to open its 2020-21 regular season on December 4.
The league said it is hoping to play a full 68 game season, followed by four rounds of playoffs.
Speaking with media Thursday, John Paddock, the Pats general manager, said the team is anxious to get back on the ice, but added there are still a lot of details to iron out before that happens.
“It’s a serious situation, playing or not playing. The sooner we get playing the better, and the amount of games we can get in, which is hopefully 68,” Paddock said. “There’s a lot to be discussed.”
The opening date of the regular season is contingent on receiving health and safety approval from the governments and health authorities in every jurisdiction in WHL territory.
“In our discussions with the government and health authorities, it has become apparent that added time is needed to ensure we can return to play in a safe and responsible manner,” said Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner.
“Our WHL health and safety protocols have been well received by the health authorities but we have several key issues that we will need to reach a resolution on in the coming months.”
The league said the later start date will give it added time to work out guidelines and rules with various governments and health authorities.
PLAYERS AND STAFF
The league is still in the early stages of working out the details of how and when teams will begins their in-person preparations for the season.
For now, the Pats coaching staff is doing what they can to keep in touch with players, including group and individual zoom calls, since they are not officially allowed in team facilities.
Paddock said the Pats do not have much information about what will be needed to get players and staff back in the building when the time comes. However, he said when camp does start, it will also look much different than usual.
“It’s definitely going to be an abbreviated camp, lesser numbers, less exhibition games. I think there’s going to be a lot of discussion on the timing of things that we can do as a league with keeping a level playing field,” Paddock said.
Earlier this year, the Pats drafted Connor Bedard first overall in the WHL draft. Bedard was granted exceptional status by the CHL to play his rookie year as a 15-year-old.
Although uncertainty still surrounds the league’s return to play, Paddock said Bedard, his family and team are still excited about his upcoming rookie season.
“I think it’s a real bonus for us when we do start up, to be able to showcase him to our fans and everybody here,” Paddock said.
When players are invited to camps, Bedard will have to travel from his hometown in British Columbia to Saskatchewan, however, the process may be a bit more difficult for other non-Canadian Pats players.
“Right now crossing from the United States into Canada is not easy, even with visas or where were at with stuff like that. Same with the Europeans, there’s a whole lot of work to do there that the league has some say in,” Paddock said. “There’s a lot of bridges to cross here, as we go forward.”
Paddock added it would be helpful to get players into team facilities as early as possible, but those decisions are currently in the hands of the league, governments and health officials.
The 2019-20 WHL season was paused on March 12, due to COVID-19 concerns.