The Lloydminster Bobcats will not be joining the rest of the AJHL as they gear up for their return to the season.
Due to public health restrictions, the Government of Saskatchewan has denied the team from participating in the Return to Play. The AJHL’s plan was approved by Alberta Health Services with training camps starting in March and games scheduled until May.
Bobcats General Manager and Head Coach Nigel Dube received word back about the team being sidelined before noon on February 25th. In a release, he says the organization exhausted every options in order to try and meet Saskatchewan’s requirements to no avail.
“We have created multiple proposals to try and make it work, exploring and exhausting every avenue. We even looked at options with a very steep price tag, but it just was not enough.”
He adds the City of Lloydminster representative to the government did everything they could to try and convince them to look into every option including establishing a bubble in the city. The Western Hockey League’s bubble in Regina was approved to return to the ice starting February 21st. The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League is still suspended and league officials are waiting to hear back from the province on whether they can restart their season.
The release also states multiple signings were made recently in preparation for the return which included several future prospects who AEHL season was cut short as well as players from the Manitoba Junior Hockey League whose season was also cancelled earlier this month.
“This was going to give us the opportunity to bring in our future players early and give them an opportunity to experience Junior hockey and the city of Lloydminster. Acquiring the three players from Manitoba was giving them the opportunity to play out the rest of the season.”
“The boys want to play hockey, I want to play hockey. The 20-year-olds want to graduate a few games richer, there are scholarship questions and a whole lot more. It has been like tryouts where you sit on pins and needles hoping for the best outcome, but really you just do your best and it is out of your hands.”
New players to the Bobcats team included Chase Visser from the St. Albert Raiders, Connor Burke from the Calgary Northstars, Nolan Henderson from the Calgary Flames, Jack Parker from the St. Albert Raiders, Cole Dekoninck from the Portage Terriers, Colby Jaquet from the Dauphin Kings and Dylan Meilun from the Winkler Flyers.
The Bobcats started their season playing in Kitscoty due to the provincial health guidelines in Lloydminster but where able to return to the Civic Centennial Centre in October to play their regular season games. The AJHL was then put on pause on November 25th. The Bobcats had a record of 0-2 in the regular season with one game postponed due to weather. In the pre-season, they were 2-6.
It was also recently announced that AJHL teams will be benefiting from a 50/50 lottery which will run each weekend in March.