The SaskAlta Senior Hockey League will be having an abbreviated 2020-2021 season. The league will be split into Alberta and Saskatchewan divisions with no cross-border play in hopes of minimizing the spread of COVID-19.
According to league president Rod Boutin, the Saskatchewan season will look quite different than the Alberta season.
“The Alberta side has to take 14 days off between games. What they’re allowed to do is on one weekend have a home and home series against an opponent. And then both teams have to take 14 days off before they can play again.
“Whereas Saskatchewan, they can have a home and home one weekend, but only take five days off before the next opponent,” said Boutin.
The Saskatchewan division will play 16 games, while the Alberta division will play 10.
Murray Cochrane is the manager of the Elk Point Elks, one of the six Alberta-based teams in the league. He said it’s very important for the teams to be able to have a season.
“I think everybody needs something to do and something good to look forward to. So I think it’s some entertainment that some of the people in the community can come out and watch. Lots of people have been locked up with nothing to do for a long time,” said Cochrane, noting they can have up to 100 fans in the stands when they play.
Asked how the Elks are looking for this year, he said he expected they would have some new players but the team would be alright.
“One thing I think all the teams are going to find that it’ll be a little bit more of a trying season for sponsorship. It takes quite a bit to run a team. So I think that it’ll be a trying year but I think the communities will come and embrace it all and I think we should be fine,” said Cochrane.
According to Boutin, the league did see two Saskatchewan teams take a break this year, the Maidstone Jets and the Neilburg Monarchs.
“Some of the teams I’ll say are chomping at the bit and have already been practicing and want to get going and have the season. Other teams have been sitting back waiting to see what SHA (Saskatchewan Hockey Association) and Hockey Alberta are going to have for restrictions and what municipalities have for restrictions on the facilities,” said Boutin.
“Playoff formats have already been set. The Alberta side will play off and have an Alberta champion and the Saskatchewan side will playoff and have a Saskatchewan champion.
“We’re hoping that by March restrictions will let up so that the Saskatchewan and Alberta champions can play off and we can have a league champion,” said Boutin.
The Elk Point Elks open their season at home against Paradise Valley on Nov. 6.