Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/10/2020 (455 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Manitoba Junior Hockey League has been a trailblazer in Canadian hockey. It’s the only junior A league in Canada to start its regular season and has served as a valuable template for other leagues to gather knowledge.
Now, with pre-season play underway in the Alberta, B.C. and Maritime junior leagues and the Saskatchewan league getting started later this week, the next challenge is looming.
What happens when or if there’s a positive test for COVID-19 with one of the MJHL’s 12 member teams?
"Obviously, we’d be working very closely with public health and I think that’s one of the main reasons that we developed our schedule the way we have is with the expectation that we will see a positive case," MJHL commissioner Kevin Saurette said Tuesday.
"We obviously hope that’s not the case but you know that’s something that we can’t control. All we control is putting in the measures around it so we’re prepared if a team has to quarantine for 14 days with minimal disruption to our schedule and with minimal risk of exposure between multiple teams."
The league has carefully plotted its regular-season schedule, limiting teams for the most part to four-game blocks against the same opponent. The intent is to minimize travel and exposure to teams over a reduced 40-game regular-season slate.
So far, while insisting fans and league personnel wear masks unless they’re on the ice, an adherence to health guidelines appears to have worked.
Saurette said no one involved with the MJHL has tested positive for the virus. Ten of the 12 teams have already played four games.
On Monday, Hockey Manitoba executive director Peter Woods confirmed two people affiliated with his organization — "one was in minor hockey and one was in a junior program" — have tested positive for COVID-19.
In both cases, Woods said the individuals were isolated and the program was suspended for a period of time. He would not elaborate further.
The mask rule is supposed to be applied uniformly as per the Hockey Manitoba guidelines.
"I think like anywhere there’s a minority group that has concerns with (wearing masks) but overall there’s been absolutely no issues," said Saurette.
Saurette has remained in frequent contact with teams around the league, although the pandemic has restricted his ability to travel as much as he would like.
"There’s been no negative feedback to date regarding how teams are operating and how facilities are operating during the games and I think everyone understands all the precautions that are necessary," said Saurette. "They understand that it’s a little bit different entering facilities and watching games this year."
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT: Ryan Galley, the MJHL’s newly appointed manager of player safety, issued three suspensions this week: rookie Steinbach blue-liner Sam Court will sit one game after being assessed a major for kneeing during an Oct. 17 game between the Pistons and the Winnipeg Freeze; after a supplemental review, Dauphin centre Koby Morrisseau was handed a three-game ban for a blow to the head during a game between the Kings and the Waywayseecappo Wolverines on Oct. 10. Morrisseau was not penalized on the play; Portage forward Bryson McDonald got a one-game suspension for a kneeing major during a game between the Terriers and the Virden Oil Capitals on Oct. 16.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW: Dauphin captain Grady Hobbs is closing in on a Kings’ franchise record for career games played.
Hobbs, a 20-year-old left-winger who pushed back his freshman campaign in the NCAA to return for his fifth year in Dauphin, sits in sixth place with 228 games played. He trails Curtis Campbell (261), T.J. Warkentin (252), Kyle Lopez (242), Shane Luke (241) and Brendan Arnold (234) on the all-time list.
Warkentin was believed to be the career leader but subsequent research done by the Dauphin Herald’s intrepid Doug Zywina revealed that Campbell was in fact No. 1.
Hobbs can vault to the top of the chart if he plays in at least 34 of Dauphin’s remaining 36 regular-season games.
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.