The Bonnyville Sr. Pontiacs will not be hitting the ice this season.
On Wednesday, the NCHL announced the cancellation of the 2020-21 season after a league board meeting due to current health restrictions.
Sr. Pontiacs head coach Corey Wandler said he hoped the league would’ve delayed the decision to wait and see what health authorities would allow in a few weeks time, but he understands the decision.
“We were obviously disappointed. We understand why they’re cancelling,” said Wandler.
“We just thought why not kind of wait to see what happens with Alberta Health Services here as Alberta tries to stickhandle through everything and see whether maybe there might be some restrictions that get lifted here, between now and mid November.
In meetings this fall, league governors decided to push back the season start until early December. But cohort rules with only a 50 person group allowed for competition and the off-time needed in between games before facing a new opponent, created challenges to having a season.
“I think that was the biggest thing standing in our way,” said Wandler.
“We would have to wait three weeks to play a game and with the age level that we’re at, all these guys have full-time jobs and families at home and other things going on in their life. We just thought okay, what kind of commitment would we get?
“Hockey Alberta said now that senior hockey can only have 23 cards. And normally we card 30 to 35 players to get us through the season because guys have other commitments, they have shift work. So you’re not always going to get the same team every weekend. So we can only have 25 players on the roster.”
Wandler was excited as he described this recruiting class as strong over the off-season.
With no season, the Sr. Pontiacs will stand pat for the time being, with no ice time booked.
“We walk away for now. And we return and then eight, nine months from now and hope the world is in a better, healthier place where we can resume.”
The last time the Sr. Pontiacs played, they lost a hard-fought series against the top-seeded Morinville Kings in early 2020.