SJHL receives provincial help; is considering its options for the season

There hasn’t been much good news this season for the Battlefords North Stars, but they did receive a much needed dose of it on Friday.

That day the Government of Saskatchewan announced funding to support the province’s Western Hockey League teams as well as the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.

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The funding is to help the clubs address revenue shortfalls due to COVID-19 restrictions. The province is providing $3 million to the five Saskatchewan based WHL teams. The SJHL will receive $1 million, which will be provided equally to the league’s 12 member teams including the North Stars.

“Our junior hockey teams are a critical part of the cultural fabric and local economies across the province,” said Trade and Export Development Minister Jeremy Harrison in a statement. “Necessary restrictions due to COVID-19 have had a significant impact on these leagues and their teams and this support will help them address these financial challenges.”

“The SJHL, which consists of community owned teams, has been in a state of uncertainty due to COVID-19 during the past several months,” SJHL President Bill Chow said in a news release. “The financial support that has been provided by the Saskatchewan Government creates a more positive outlook for our teams.”

In a statement, Battlefords MLA Jeremy Cockrill expressed his support for the funding to the Battlefords North Stars and other junior teams.

“This organization is one that is so vital for the fabric of our community. We certainly enjoy the games (and recent playoff runs) but these young men spend a significant amount of time volunteering in our community, especially in our elementary schools. Looking forward to having this team as part of the Battlefords for many years to come.”

The funding announcement is welcome news to the North Stars organization, which has been struggling financially throughout the pandemic. Back in November, the North Stars went to city council where they requested and were granted a reduced rental rate at the Civic Centre to address the shortfall in revenues this season.

That was granted just prior to the province announcing that play was being suspended under new pandemic restrictions on Nov. 27.

The latest funding from the province came just a few days after the SJHL learned from the province’s Business Response Team that there would be no consideration of a return to play for at least four weeks.

In a news release, the league stated the response from the Business Response Team was “one more challenge the SJHL faces. We are grateful that our season has not been shut down completely.”

The league states that they have “formed a committee to determine options for our return to play and determine the best scenario for all concerned.  Our initial focus is to have our players return to their SJHL communities to continue their training and hockey development as soon as possible.

“There are many factors to consider and first and foremost is the health and safety of our players, staff members, volunteers, and our fans.  Details regarding our schedule will be announced at a later date.”

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