SJHL approved for play, exhibition games can begin effective immediately

The SJHL is back on.

The league announced Oct. 16 that it would begin play effective immediately following final approval from public health officials. The league's 12 teams will play exhibition games between Oct. 17-Nov. 1. A schedule for the exhibition season is not yet available.

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The regular season is currently slated to begin at some point the week of Nov. 2 - no firm season opening date has yet been released.

At first, teams will be allowed to have a maximum of 150 fans in the rink during exhibition games, with mask use and social distancing mandatory within arenas. Rules for regular season games, including any possible changes in fan rules, are still being formulated by the league.

Most SJHL teams have opened training camps for players, with several teams keeping players occupied with scrimmages and drills while waiting for news about preseason and exhibition games.

The Saskatchewan Hockey Association (SHA) announced return to play guidelines Oct.8 for junior hockey, but the SJHL announced following the release of the guidelines, citing ongoing conversations with the Saskatchewan Health Authority (Sask Health) on protocols for play and fan attendance.

"Once protocols and the arena's abilities to handle fans are satisfactory to the Saskatchewan government/Sask Health, then we could have a start date," read a league statement issued Oct. 9.

The SHA's plan included timetables for junior hockey allowing for exhibition games to begin Oct. 17 and for league games to start Nov. 1 - the same exhibition start date as the SJHL announced Oct. 16. The SHA rules also allow for a maximum of 150 fans in attendance unless assigned seating is available, at which case numbers may be allowed to increase.

Fans are advised to avoid unnecessary visiting, moving around and congregating in groups while attending games and will likely need to sit at least two metres apart from other fans outside their household.

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