Local teams in the Northeastern Alberta Junior B Hockey League are hoping for a return to action near Halloween, but in the meantime, teams across the Lakeland are gearing up for competition.
“These kids want to play hockey, right?” said Cold Lake Ice head coach Scott Hood.
“That’s what it’s all about and doesn’t matter if you play four games or 24 games, they’re gonna get some hockey and we’ve been skating here for the last few weeks and they’re pretty excited to get going.”
If things shape up the way they’re trending, teams could face off in head-to-head competition beginning Nov. 1 for a series of games at a time to form one cohort.
But before the Cold Lake Ice, St. Paul Canadiens, Lac La Biche Clippers, or Vermilion Tigers could play a different opponent, they would have to take a two week break in between games.
There are some added measures teams will have to follow, says general manager Willie Abougouche.
“Once the hockey players are on the ice, the game will look the same. The only thing that will be different is that all players have to do a health check before they come in, and everyone will sign in and do their health check and it will tell them what their health check is,” he said.
“If a player doesn’t do the health check they are not allowed to play.”
Attendance is still capped at 100 fans in the stands for the time being, which makes operating these franchises difficult.
Charging $10 per ticket, the 100 people limit caps them at earning $1,000. In a week after paying for ice time for practices and a game as well as for their referees they are already looking at being charged over $1,000, not counting the bus trip on the weekend for an away game.
“We really need the fan support. Come on out to the rink where you can enjoy a few hours of entertainment,” said Tigers head coach Ryan Earl.
However, with more local players sticking in their home communities instead of attending college or university in person has created more buzz and competition in camps.
The NEAJBHL championship was cancelled in March just as the Canadiens and Clippers finished their semifinal series’.
The Clippers have made appeals to the league to still play the 2019-20 final, and will push for that again, said Abougouche.
Follow up meetings this week should bring more clarity to the future of the season.
With files from Bianca Mazziotti and Angela Mouly.