With the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League season in limbo due to COVID-19, the mayor of La Ronge is questioning how the season will change their communities.
SJHL President Bill Chow, said the season has a potential start date of Oct. 9 with nothing else approved by the Saskatchewan Health Authority. It is too early to tell what the season will look like, he said.
The Town of La Ronge has been in their own little bubble since the beginning of COVID, said Mayor Ronald Woytowich. Being isolated has offered some sort of protection from the spread of the virus but that bubble will officially burst with SJHL teams and fans coming to take on the Ice Wolves.
Even with the threat of COVID-19, Woytowich hopes people still come to the games while still taking public health precautions.
“Just to have some sort of entertainment in town would be a great thing because quite frankly it's been kind of dead with everybody scared.”
If games were to happen, it would be financially draining on the team for games to happen with no one coming, he said. The teams can’t recoup those costs, he said.
The Ice Wolves are a great thing to have in the community, he said, and the town council did everything they could to protect them from the unstableness that COVID brought to the province and the SJHL.
“It's a big cost for every team. I'm guessing half a million, at least for ours, that they have to recoup some way. If they do have a game and if the fans go to the games, at least now the costs will be somewhat recouped.”
Woytowich doubts any SHJL team will make money this year, but having teams in the community still is a benefit with the team keeping them vibrant, he said.
“As long as the teams are coming to town, the hotels at least one of them is going to be busy. It's an all-around economic driver as well, but for the community itself, it is a really big thing to have what we call a semi-professional team.”
Getting ice into the Mel Hegland Uniplex is still in question, Woytowich said, with this year’s minor hockey seasons and hockey school hanging in the balance. That in itself is going to impact local boys and girls who not only want to play hockey themselves but also look up to Ice Wolves players. A lack of hockey in an already hockey-crazed town is going to impact the people the most, Woytowich said.
Written with files from Jessica R. Durling, Humboldt Journal