The Lloydminster Bobcats will be starting up exhibition games next week to kick off their 2020-2021 season.
The Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) released the teams’ cohorts on Thursday stating the Bobcats will be playing against the Sherwood Park Crusaders.
Players and coaches were concerned that there may not be a season this year due to the pandemic.
Receiving the return-to-play news was an exciting moment for the Bobcats and Head Coach Nigel Dube.
“When the announcement was made and we found out, it was like Christmas day for a lot of people. There was so much waiting and hoping and being optimistic so it’s definitely a step in the right direction.”
Cohort groups are allowed up to 50 people according to the Government of Alberta.
However, the AJHL has requested to expand the cohort group from 50 people to 100 people or from two teams to four during exhibition games.
Rules and regulations involving arena capacity limits, social distancing protocols within the rink, and ticket sales will be decided by each community and team organization.
“Every day something changes. Right now we have our setup out in Kitscoty but by tomorrow something can change or by next week so we’re going to let that be for now,” said Dube.
Depending on the expansion of cohorts, the decision about how the regular season will look is uncertain.
When Provincial regulations ease up, the AJHL will get back to regular season play.
“If everyone continues to do their part and staying safe and following all the guidelines, I think it’s encouraging that maybe we will get back to playing in front of people again,” said Dube.
The Bobcats have played two exhibition games in Kitscoty with another coming up to prepare themselves for the evidential season.
Dube and his players have also hosted training camps to stay in shape and get focused.
When looking to get back in to game play, Dube mentioned his team will treat it like any other season with hard work and determination.
“We’ve grown over the first two weeks of practices and scrimmages here. We’ll continue on that. We’ve had a strong first two weeks here. We’ll have the weekend off and get back to it on Monday and prepare like we would if it was a regular season game.”
The Crusaders finished first in the AJHL North Division last season giving the Bobcats a strong front to take on for their first match up.
“It works out for us to go down the road to Sherwood Park. I think the opponent isn’t the big thing here, the big thing is getting back to playing some games against an opponent,” said Dube.
Bobcats and Crusaders will be playing their first exhibition game on October 9 in Sherwood Park.