A new senior hockey league is looking to bring the game back to several area communities.
After the Triangle Hockey League ceased operations after the 2019-20 season ended due to COVID-19, it appeared the senior game in the Yorkton region might be over.
But groups in Ituna and Canora wanted to resurrect senior hockey in those communities after several years without a team, and they reached out to Mike Stackhouse who had been the statistician for the Triangle League, and briefly its president before its demise.
“I knew Rocanville that hadn’t had a team last season, looked like they could have a team this year,” he said.
And, once the rumour got out about a potential league four teams that had been in the Triangle League; Theodore, Hudson Bay, Esterhazy and Bredenbury jumped in, said Stackhouse.
A meeting was held in June and the Sask East Hockey League was born.
Since the June meeting Stackhouse said a group in Preeceville has shown interest in launching senior hockey in their community again.
“They plan to attend the next meeting at the end of the month,” he said, adding there are other communities looking at the league including Woolsley and Porcupine Plain.
Stackhouse said the league could potentially have 12 teams, but added he wants to be cautious too.
“Do we have enough players for all of the teams?” he questioned, noting that last season Bredenbury was drawing players from the Canora/Pelly area. With Canora, and potentially Preeceville in the new league “what does that do to Bredenbury?”
With access to players an issue to be explored more fully, so too is when the league might start, and how many games they might play.
Reasonably Stackhouse said he sees a north and south division in the league, with teams playing around 20-games.
As for when the league might hit the ice, Stackhouse said that will depend on provincial regulations regarding the pandemic, and the league’s need to ensure player, team support staff and fan safety.
“Typically they (senior leagues) start in November around Remembrance Day,” he said, adding at present the league is planning for that.
However, Stackhouse conceded a lot of volunteers, ticket takers, 50/50 sellers, for senior hockey teams in small towns are “higher risk people, elderly, retired people over the age of 65,” and with the continuing uncertainty over COVID-19 “we have to at least consider that.”
With that in mind Stackhouse said the league will “take the information available to us the last 10-months,” into consideration as they nail down plans for a 2020-21 season.
“What are the rules going to be for attendance?” asked Stackhouse, answering his own question by pointing out that will be determined by the province and health officials.
Another factor will be how many fans can attend.
Stackhouse said he hopes the league can find a way to start in November because the NHL isn’t likely to start next season before late December or potentially into January 2021. If the NHL is delayed junior and senior leagues could see an increase in fan support since it could be the only hockey being played.