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Monday , 28 September 2020

Bonnyville Pontiacs season start date unknown as AJHL waits for approvals

The developmental training camp will begin August 31.

The Bonnyville Pontiacs’ season has been pushed back to October as the Alberta Junior Hockey League waits for approvals from the provincial government and Hockey Alberta on how to move forward.

The AJHL with its 15 member teams had a conference call last Friday to discuss the next steps for the 2019-20 season, where training camps were tentatively scheduled to begin soon and the Yaks season set to start September 18.

The league is still looking for exemptions on mass gatherings from the provincial health rules and from Hockey Alberta to allow travel for games outside of “cohort” areas.

Head coach and general manager Rick Swan said there are a lot of moving pieces until these exemptions are granted, but the Pontiacs are working to get some of their American recruits across the border and players from across the country into Bonnyville.

“We want to start our training camp on time. We were not hopeful that we’re going to start until October 16. But we opted-in as a league majority vote to enter into a developmental season.”

This development season will begin August 31, the league announced on Friday, and would act as an extended training camp.

It comes with a fee for players and would account for ice time and staff costs in September and October as players prepare for the season.

In the meantime, the Lloydminster Bobcats and Fort McMurray Oil Barons would be within the Pontiacs’ cohort area, which would allow for exhibition games.

“Within that period of time, we’re going to make sure that we dial in. We can only have 25 players by the 15th of September, so it’s not like we can trade players or we’re using it as a development camp to keep on more players to make money, it’s just a matter of keeping our players geared to go and ready to go when the league gives us a thumbs up to start,” said Swan.

“We put together a pretty comprehensive package that will show that we’ve taken strong measures to be able to minimize or even eliminate any risks associated to American players spread COVID.”

Specific details about all internal protocols within the day-to-day operations of the teams is still to be decided.

Invited players will have the option to register for a respective team’s Development Season or opt out of the camp.

“The Alberta Junior Hockey League will be poised to immediately resume regular season competition when Provincial regulations allow,” said AJHL commissioner Ryan Bartoshyk in a press release.

About Michael Menzies

Menzies is the editor-at-large for Connect Media. Born and raised in Vermilion, he started in May 2018 during his NAIT Radio and Television practicum and reports on local politics, sports, and community issues. He became the Bonnyville Pontiacs play-by-play voice during the 2019-20 season. He also comments on provincial and national issues. Menzies hosts Connected! Evening Monday-Thursday at 5 o’clock. He also likes to buy books and read some of them.