Sask. WHL players excited to return to play in Regina hub
REGINA -- Hockey players on Saskatchewan and Manitoba Western Hockey League (WHL) teams are gearing up to hit the ice in the East Division hub in Regina.
On Friday, the Government of Saskatchewan approved a return to play for the league based around a hub format hosted in Regina, starting Mar 12.
It was an exciting moment for players on Saskatchewan-based teams
"I was surprised and I mean I knew we were hoping to get some news this week kind of with the other divisions getting news, but it'll be a really good experience to be able to play in Regina," Chase Wouters, the captain of the Saskatoon Blades said Saturday.
The Regina Pats, referencing Michael Jordan’s famous out-of-retirement fax, simply tweeted “we're back.”
Seven Saskatchewan and Manitoba based teams will play a 24-game regular season at Evraz Place. Teams and their staff will begin self-isolating on February 20.
"The last ten months have felt like isolation a little bit. That’s the first step and that’s the first thing we need to do as a team to get back to playing and I know all the guys will be able to do it,” Wouters said.
Teams will report to the WHL hub centre on Feb. 27, where they will undergo COVID-19 testing when they arrive, then enter into an additional quarantine period.
Players and staff will be tested a second time before they're allowed to engage in any team activity.
Teams will use the Brandt Centre for games and practices, while the cooperators centre will remain open to the general public.
“At this point we don't anticipate any impact to the existing business at the Cooperators Centre,” Tim Reid, the President & CEO of Evraz Place said.
“That doesn't mean that if there's a player or a coach that wants to get a handful of kids on the ice for additional time, outside of the Brand Centre they have the ability to rent it but they'd follow the same process as anyone else.”
While players don't know what the schedule will look like, Wouters said any Saskatchewan face-off will bring some exciting prospects.
"It'll be intense and I think they'll all be close games, down to the wire so it’ll be fun and it'll be a good experience."