Thursday , 23 September 2021

Hockey season pushed back for the Portage Voyageurs

With the abrupt cancellation of the hockey season back in March due to COVID-19, and the unpredictability of the virus, it was uncertain when the Voyageurs will be able to get back on the ice. 

The schedule has not been released, but it has been determined the Portage College team won’t be playing in the fall.

The exact dates aren’t known when hockey season will start back up, but it is expected to be within the first or second week in January of 2021. 

Nate Bedford, head coach of Portage Voyageurs men’s hockey team admits that everything is still up in the air.

“It’s been an obscure year with all sports and in particular the sports that we have at Portage, without having any fall sports it’s going to be kind of a different approach to the fall semester,” said Bedford.

“We are kind of waiting to see how the next couple of months will pan out, and we hope that there is a winter season for sports, but there’s certainly no guarantees with so many unknowns right now.”

For college level hockey to start, COVID-19 would have to be under control in the Lakeland area as it won’t be possible for hockey players to social distance on the ice, especially during games. 

Although there hasn’t been any reported cases of COVID-19 in Lac La Biche, players, staff, and people attending the games are all at risk for contracting the virus.

Bedford is well aware of the risks, and his main priority is to keep everyone safe.

“There is a lot of caution when it comes to the next hockey season,” said Bedford.

“We want to make sure we are thinking about the health and safety of not just our student athletes but our facility staff. If certain regulations don’t ease up, I don’t see a hockey season happening.”

The Voyageurs struggled last season to get a win under their belt, they played 28 games and lost all of them. 

For the winter season coming up, Bedford believes they are more prepared this year, and have come up with new strategies to hopefully come back from last year’s losing streak.

“When you’re in the trenches, and you’re losing games, sometimes you don’t take the time to really dig down deep to see what positives you can pull from it,” said Bedford.

“So this break has been a really good opportunity to take some positives away from our season last year. I think we had some holes to fill, we needed more in-depth scoring, and we needed more in terms of our defense.”

According to Bedford, about 40 per cent of the team is new players for the upcoming 2021 season. The new players have been picked to hopefully cover last year’s blind spots. 

“We’ve got a new goalie, and we’ve added more defensemen. Last year we had seven on defense now we have 10, so that will bring more competition within the team and push players to play harder as only six can play each game,” said Bedford.

The Voyageurs will have to wait a few extra months longer than normal to get their chance to prove themselves for the upcoming season, but Bedford is remaining positive and crosses his fingers for their opportunity to hopefully pull some wins. 

“We are optimistic that athletics is going to happen as a whole, but we want to make sure we proceed with caution and we want to make sure we look after the safety of our student athletes and staff and we get through this.” said Bedford.

“We are excited, we definitely want to compete, and in a trying time in all of our lives we want to compete as much as anybody. So we are looking forward to the start of the season.”

About Michael Menzies

Menzies is the editor-at-large for Connected Media Inc. 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.