While the final approval from the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health has yet to be given on the 2020-21 Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League regular season, the official schedule has been released to the public.
A 50-game schedule slated to begin on Friday, November 6th has been announced for all 12 SJHL teams, with several new quirks for each team. While the standard 3-division format is still technically in place, the 12 teams will be split into a North-South ‘Bubble’ featuring six teams each. This means the Estevan Bruins, while still in the Viterra Division with the Weyburn Red Wings, Yorkton Terriers and Melville Millionaires, will also play more games against the Notre Dame Hounds and Humboldt Broncos this season as the latter two are in the South ‘Bubble’.
The North ‘Bubble’ will consist of the two other teams from the Global Ag Risk Division (Battlefords, Kindersley), and the Sherwood Division (Flin Flon, La Ronge, Melfort, Nipawin).
The 50-game schedule reduces the total number of games by 8 compared to a full season, and will have each team play 25 home games and 25 road games. With every team using the same format, the Bruins will play each team the following number of times:
10 games – Weyburn Red Wings
8 games – Yorkton Terriers, Melville Millionaires
6 games – Humboldt Broncos, Notre Dame Hounds
2 games – Battlefords North Stars, Flin Flon Bombers, Kindersley Klippers, La Ronge Ice Wolves, Melfort Mustangs, Nipawin Hawks
The Bruins will only be allowed to play teams from the South ‘Bubble’ before January 8th, after that teams have been permitted to schedule their overnight road trips. However, the Bruins won’t face off against teams from the North until February 2nd – 6th when they travel to the Sherwood Division for 4 games in 5 nights. The only other overnight trip will be against Battlefords and Kindersley on February 27th & 28th.
Other notable parts of the schedule include:
- Opening Weekend vs Melville (away on Nov. 6th, home on Nov. 7th).
- No ‘New Years Home-and-Home’ games vs Weyburn.
- 10 consecutive road games from Jan. 21st – Feb. 12th. The Bruins will be unable to play at Affinity Place during this time as Estevan hosts both the provincial Scotties women’s curling championship and the provincial SaskTel Tankard men’s curling championship.
- 9 of final 11 games at home, ending with the Season Finale against Melville on Friday, April 2nd.
At this time, the playoff format will remain unchanged from the 2019-20 SJHL format. This means the top 8 teams will qualify for playoffs and the bottom 4 teams will be eliminated. Teams will be seeded in order by their total points/winning percentage, with no guaranteed Top 3 spot for division winners. The quarterfinals will see 1 vs 8, 2 vs 7, 3 vs 6, and 4 vs 5, with four teams advancing to the semi-final and then the final two teams squaring off in the Canalta Cup sometime in May 2021.
No decision has been made at this time by Hockey Canada and the Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL) regarding the regional championships (Anavet Cup for SJHL/MJHL) or the national championship (Centennial Cup hosted in Penticton, B.C.).
At the time of the SJHL schedule release, the Ministry of Health has yet to approve the start of the regular season or the final attendance figures allowed for each team. The schedule and protocols that have been sent into the Ministry of Health are based upon a maximum capacity of 50% for each building’s total capacity, but also must include physical distancing between households. This means the final figure for all SJHL facilities will likely fall between 25% – 30% of the total maximum capacity.
Preseason games had a maximum cap of 150 spectators, regardless of facility size. It has yet to be determined by the Ministry of Health if that number will increase and to what figure it will increase to. An answer is expected to be given for the start of the season no later than November 1st.
The Estevan Bruins are preparing for all outcomes and circumstances, but cannot release details on Season Tickets, Gameday Tickets, Fan Restrictions, Safety Guidelines, or various other game-related information until more answers are given to the team and the SJHL.