The Saskatchewan Hockey Association has announced a five phase approach for minor hockey to return to play.
The comprehensive document was released Thursday afternoon, shortly after Saskatchewan chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab announced the guidelines would be coming.
The hockey association is currently in Phase 1 of evaluation and training.
Phase 2 will include exhibition games within a mini-league, starting Oct. 17, Phase 3 will be league games, within a mini-league, starting Nov. 1, and Phase 4 would be league games within an expanded mini-league, starting Jan. 18, 2021.
Playoffs and provincials, which would be the final phase, have a start date to be determined.
The Phase 2 and 3 start dates do not apply to under-7, under-9 and under-11 age groups.
In Phase 2, competition in the mini-leagues can begin with four teams of 50 players per mini-league. Teams will be permitted to play in a maximum of two exhibition games during Phase 2.
Teams will not be allowed to switch mini-leagues during that phase, either.
Leagues must notify the hockey association of which teams are in which mini-leagues, the teams are only permitted to participate in one exhibition game, per day, teams are not allowed to stay overnight when travelling for exhibition games, and all exhibition games must be approved.
Mini-leagues will be created within the existing hockey leagues in Saskatchewan and should be as geographically tight as possible in an effort to minimize travel.
If transmission levels increase, the size of mini-leagues may have to be reduced or hockey temporarily suspended in regions of the province where COVID-19 is a concern before reducing or suspending play province-wide.
As for Phase 3, if COVID-19 transmission levels remain manageable within the province and the chief medical health officer provides approval, mini-leagues would be able to increase to a maximum of six teams or 80 players per mini league.
Leagues must gain approval of the Sask. Hockey prior to games commencing within them.
All league games will require approval from the respective leagues, teams must remain within their assigned mini-league, teams are permitted to play league games within their region for competition and teams are encouraged to schedule back-to-back games with one opponent in a week, followed by a five-day break before scheduling the next opponent.
Participants may only be a part of one mini-league within a single sports organization at any given time.
Sask. Hockey encourages league games to be played on a weekend, and to be home and home with the same team.
Phase 4 would expand mini leagues to eight teams or 120 players per mini-league.
As for playoffs and provincials, all minor, female and senior series will be played in a modified best of three series using regular game play procedures, although if one team wins Game 1 and ties Game 2, the series will be over.
If the teams split the two games, or if the first two games both end in a tie, then a 10-minute mini-game will be played to decide the series winner regardless of what the score was in the first two games.
League playoffs will be decided with the same playoff format.
The Saskatchewan Hockey Association’s face covering policy has been implemented for all members of minor hockey; including players, coaches, bench staff, on-ice officials, off-ice officials and parents/spectators. The policy will apply to all association membership until such a time that it has been deemed safe to remove this policy.
Not only will people be asked to wear face coverings properly when entering and exiting the arena, fans and spectators will have to do so while in the stands.
Tournaments and out-of-province play will not be permitted.
Dates, procedures and protocols may change as deemed necessary by the Government of Saskatchewan and/or Saskatchewan Hockey Association. Each phase within the Saskatchewan Hockey Association’s safety guidelines is subject to approval.
The plan does not apply to senior hockey leagues such as the Big Six Hockey League.