Saskatchewan minor hockey gets green light to play games

Kids across Saskatchewan will be able to lace up their skates and play organized hockey this fall.

The province has approved a plan set out by the Saskatchewan Hockey Association to get minor hockey back on the ice.

“We can start playing some exhibition games as of Oct. 17,” said SHA general manager Kelly McClintock.

Tryouts and teams have, for the most part, been determined across the province.

For exhibition games, four teams will be grouped together, without any restrictions on the number of individuals. 

For the regular season, teams will be put into mini leagues of up to six teams.

Saskatchewan Hockey Association GM Kelly McClintock says they have been working on this plan for months. (CBC)

McClintock said for a team sport like hockey, it would be very hard to restrict the number of people involved in games to 30 — the current limit for most gatherings under provincial pandemic regulations.

“We didn’t want to be tied to the current … guideline in terms of number of participants,” McClintock said. “We wanted to be tied to a number of teams. [When] we start including coaches and players and referees and timekeepers, etc., it would exceed [30 people].”

The association will also make sure teams are close to each other geographically.

“We’re really looking at restricting play, but at least they get to play games, and they are playing games in their traditional leagues.”

After Christmas the mini leagues may be expanded up to eight teams. (Lucky Business/Shutterstock)

McClintock said if everything goes well, they will be able to expand the mini-leagues after Christmas up to eight teams. 

“Hopefully we see the transmission cases down and low, and so we can keep going throughout the year.”

Thousands of players have been on the ice since rinks reopened a few months ago, McClintock said, and the association hasn’t seen any sign of transmission so far.

“There hasn’t been a COVID case traced back to an arena, which really shows that the arenas were doing a great job in enforcing the guidelines and people were adhering to those guidelines.”

Guidelines around dressing rooms and mandatory masks for everyone not on the ice will still be in place.

McClintock said he has had few complaints about mandatory masks, but if leagues don’t comply, the SHA won’t sanction games in that community.

“The reality is that it doesn’t matter what our individual opinion is — we need to do whatever we can to ensure that kids and people can participate in the game,” he said.

“We could be in the state that they are in Toronto and Montreal, where they’re not playing any games at all.”

That means everyone has to work together, he said.

“All it takes is one community to mess up for all of us to get shut down. So we’ve got to adhere to the guidelines and do our best to ensure that we can provide some opportunities for kids to play.”