A bubble-style format is under serious consideration to make a season possible in the WHL’s B.C. Division and a similar approach could make it possible for the seven teams in the East Division to do the same.
Nevertheless, Regina Pats vice-president of hockey operations and general manager John Paddock said creating a hub for intradivisional play in the East, which includes the Winnipeg Ice and Brandon Wheat Kings, is not the preferred option.
"I think that it’s been felt and believed that we can play out of our own buildings at some point in time," said Paddock Sunday night. "The key point to that is the announcement 10 days or two weeks ago by the league to play. I know there’s a determination to do whatever is needed to play so if it comes to a different scenario than playing in your own rinks, all those things are on the table."
Last week, Kelowna Rockets owner and GM Bruce Hamilton told the Free Press his city and Kamloops could be positioned as centralized hubs for two other B.C. teams, the Prince George Cougars and Victoria Royals. The Vancouver Giants could be added to the mix.
Meanwhile Saskatoon’s SaskTel Centre and Regina’s Brandt Centre could serve as East Division hubs. Another scenario might involve Brandon’s Keystone Centre hosting multiple teams.
The Keystone has three rinks under one roof, including the main home of the Wheat Kings. It also has the added benefit of an 159-room hotel attached to the site.
However, Paddock said playing three games simultaneously in Brandon is not an option.
"I do think that with the (smaller Brandon) rinks, those are definitely advantages to practise in but the games have to be played in the WHL arena because of our online viewing," he said.
The Saskatchewan government’s recent pledge of $600,000 in pandemic funding to each of the province’s five WHL franchises was welcome news.
The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League will also receive $1 million in support.
"Well, it’s great that we got it but I don’t think it has anything to do with us wanting to play or going ahead to play," added Paddock. "We were going ahead to play anyway. I think it’s an honest valuation of what hockey means to our rural areas on the Prairies."
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.