The sudden end of the SJHL season and the extensive plans set for Weyburn to be a hosting hub for seven teams was very disappointing to Red Wings coach Rich Pilon, who noted it wasn’t just bad news for the players but for the entire community.
Weyburn had many arrangements in place for the possibility of hosting games and putting teams up in local hotels, but the provincial government and the Saskatchewan Health Authority decided against giving permission for the games to be played, and Weyburn got the news on Monday evening, two days before all the teams were to arrive.
“First and foremost was getting back to playing hockey, and doing something the players believed gets them a college scholarship or something. A lot of them are trying to be better hockey players … but for these players, that was taken away from them. I led them to believe we had a really good chance to play, because of the WHL playing in Regina, so I was shocked on that part,” said Pilon.
He understands the importance of making everything safe for people because of COVID, and said, “I believed in creating a bubble in Weyburn, we were doing that.”
Pilon pointed out that two different hotels were basically going to be taken over and locked down, with measures in place to ensure there would be no interaction with any other hotel guests.
The initial reasons given for pulling the plug on the hockey season was the presence of variants in the province, but since then, Pilon has heard there were also concerns with how things were being set up at the hotels.
“This isn’t just affecting the hockey players, this affects the whole community,” said Pilon, with businesses including restaurants, suppliers and caterers all lined up to help and provide for the needs of the seven teams who were set to come here.
“To me there are still unanswered questions that have to be answered,” said Pilon. “They wanted us to wait another two or three more weeks. That’s just prolonging the bleeding. The players have already been quarantining for 22 days.”
In addition to the WHL playing in Regina, the junior hockey leagues in both Alberta and B.C. were also able to play, so it compounds the disappointment for the decision on the SJHL games, he added.
“We had the other teams that were willing to put their trust in Weyburn,” said Pilon. “I don’t understand why we’re not playing.”
One positive for Pilon is that with all the extensive planning to set up the bubble in Weyburn, he’s been able to be out in the community meeting all the business owners and volunteers who were stepping up to help out, and he feels this has helped create some good relationships in the community.
Meantime, Pilon has been hard at work recruiting players for next season, and he noted he’s been able to line up some pretty good prospects, along with the returning players from the present squad, so he is optimistic they will be able to put together a good team come the fall.