SJHL announces return-to-play program for 2021/22 season, Sept. 24 start date

It's time for SJHL players to get the gear out of the laundry room and get the ol' skates sharpened. The league announced a tentative return-to-play plan June 8, announcing a season start in late September.

The league plans to start the season Sept. 24 - about two weeks later than a typical season start for the league - and will hold the SJHL Showcase games Oct. 4-6 at the Legends Arena in Warman. Following a holiday break from Dec. 19-27, the league will take part in the SJHL/MJHL Showcase Jan. 25-26. The regular season will end March 4, with the playoffs beginning a week later.

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According to the plan, the league also anticipates holding the Anavet Cup - the traditional series between Manitoba and Saskatchewan league champions, with the winner heading on to the national championship Centennial Cup - starting April 29. Estevan, Sask. will host the Centennial Cup this year, with the start tentatively set for May 20.

Dates have not yet been set for events this offseason, including the SJHL's annual draft and when training camps will be able to open up. Those dates, along with other dates and information, will be announced throughout the offseason, according to the league.

"Throughout the offseason, the SJHL will continue to provide its fans more detailed information on all significant dates as we move throughout the summer and towards a return to  Junior A hockey in Saskatchewan," reads an announcement from the SJHL shared publicly June 8.

Other details for the offseason and 2021/22 season will be dependent on provincial health orders. While Manitoba remains in the deeps of the third wave, Saskatchewan is beginning to lift some COVID-19 restrictions, with an eye toward a full restoration to pre-COVID-19 life (or as close to it as possible) by mid-summer if vaccination rates continue to rise and case counts continue to drop.

The league's board of governors, coaches and general managers will discuss the details of the season further in meetings throughout the offseason.

The 2020 season proved short and disastrous for the SJHL, as most teams were only able to play a handful of regular season games at most to small crowds - all games in Saskatchewan were capped at 150 fans apiece, while the Bombers' sole home game saw 400 home fans due to what were (at the time) more lax rules on public gatherings in Manitoba.

The Bombers played only two games, including the team's home opener, losing them both to the Melfort Mustangs. While the season itself was suspended in late November, it was not cancelled until March 23 when a proposed return to play in a Weyburn-based hub did not get approval from the provincial government.

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