After a long hiatus due to COVID-19 restrictions shutting down the AJHL season, the Lloydminster Bobcats will be facing off again.
The Alberta Junior Hockey League announced the return to play this week, with some differences because of ongoing pandemic precautions. Teams will be playing in cohorts for the time being as the league monitors COVID-19 risk in the league. The Bobcats will begin their season with two games against the Sherwood Park Crusaders on Friday and Saturday, and two home games against them tentatively planned for October 16th.
Head Coach and GM Nigel Dube says the team has been getting prepared with extra training and scrimmages, and while there may be some rust to start, he expects the players to ease back into the game quickly.
“March has felt like years ago, let alone months ago, so to be able to do this after having such a long break from being in a rink, to back playing another team is going to be big, it’s going to be exciting and hope they take this moment and enjoy it.”
While the first couple of games will be away games, the AJHL says fan attendance will be contingent on local COVID-19 guidelines and decided on a team by team basis. For the Bobcats, this decision will likely come before their next home game on October 16th, and Dube explains that this depends on where they’ll actually be playing.
“It’s going to be determined by what facility we’re in, and if we’re back in the Civic arena or in Kitscoty. For that being a week away, who knows what could change from now and then. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s everything is day by day. So we’ll see what happens over this week, but it’s definitely going to be a different feel with only a max of 100 people right now.”
Right now, he adds, the team is mostly focused on the near future, and the skills needed to beat the Crusaders, the number one team of the last AJHL season.
“Both teams have had extended time off. They’ve always had a good squad over there, so we have to bring our best, be ready to go from puck drop, and play with the emotion we had for the last couple of weeks here.”
Times for the Bobcats home games are to be determined right now and will be announced online.