The Richardson Pioneer Red Wings are a beneficiary of provincial funds for junior hockey in Saskatchewan, with the Wings’ share working out to be $80,000, and plans are being made for the balance of the season.
The provincial government announced the funds for the WHL and SJHL, with $1 million to be divided amongst the SJHL teams, to help offset the forced loss of games due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
League games lasted until mid-November when play was then suspended for the remainder of 2020, and at last word from provincial officials, games will not resume for at least four weeks.
Red Wings president Brent Stephanson said the money is a huge help for the hockey club, as they haven’t been able to do most of their fundraisers this year, other than their 50-50 raffle, which concluded just before Christmas.
“Even without league games, you still have expenses,” he said, noting as an example the team had bought about $16,000 worth of new sticks just before play was suspended, with no revenues coming in.
The money from the government “is huge. That’s probably the biggest fundraiser for us this season,” said Stephanson, adding he’s glad the government realizes how important junior hockey is throughout the province, and to the host communities of WHL and SJHL teams.
In the meantime, SJHL president Bill Chow said with no games for at least the next four weeks, the league is putting together a committee to figure out how best to salvage the rest of this season, and the Red Wings will have representation on that committee.
“We’re going to look at different scenarios, such as what our schedule will look like when the boys get back on the ice. I’ve been talking to the City and we’re talking about whether the ice will be in or not,” said Stephanson, noting that Weyburn Minor Hockey has also been talking with the City about the ice.
The cost to keep ice in Crescent Point Place is about $8,000 a week, and without any games or revenue, this would be very difficult for the Red Wings to afford.
The biggest determining factor on how things will proceed is an anticipated announcement on Tuesday by the province’s Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr. Sadiq Shahab, who hinted on Saturday there may be harsher restrictions coming down if COVID case numbers are not being reduced.
“I’m a little nervous about what’s going to happen there,” said Stephanson, noting that if the restrictions go for any length of time beyond the next four weeks, this season is done for, as he doesn’t see teams being able to go into July with games.
“My sympathies are for the 20-year-olds, as this is their last year of junior hockey,” he said. There are suggestions being floated about allowing 21-year-olds to play, but Stephanson said he’s not in favour of this, as this would mess up a lot of other situations such as college hockey.