Weyburn Gold Wings preparing for a new season

The Richardson Pioneer Gold Wings midget girls hockey team have coaching staff in place and 16 players signed up so far, as they prepare for a new hockey season for 2020-21.

Team supporters and board members gathered for their annual meeting on Tuesday evening at the Canalta Hotel, and heard details of the past season as well as where they are at for the coming year.

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There are many unknowns as they head into this new season, said Kyle McDonald, general manager and director of performance, but they are getting the pieces in place as much as they are able to at this point.

Chad Kish will return as the head coach, with assistants including his daughter Jane, a former Gold Wing goalie, along with Kevin Ripplinger, Alan Whitrow and his daughter Jenica, who is also a former Gold Wings player.

The board includes Deron Fahlman (vice-president), Jeff Watson and Ed Bourassa (president) joining for new two-year terms, along with Dale Renz (treasurer), Rose Ripplinger (secretary) and Becky Tuchscherer, who are all in the second year of their two-year terms.

McDonald will be working with the players in regard to development and mental performance, and said he and Kish have been talking about ideas around culture and environment for the girls on the team this year.

“When you have a couple of tough seasons, change is hard,” he said. “It’s a difficult time in terms of COVID, but we’re doing our best to adjust.”

The plans are to have the girls in Weyburn for the start of school, as the earliest the Gold Wings will get into Crescent Point Place for practices will be Tuesday, Sept. 8. They will be renting other ice facilities for practices before that, such as at Ochapowace in late August.

While there is no league schedule set yet, there won’t be any games until around Thanksgiving or after, said McDonald, noting that Sask Ringette and Minor Football have come out with return-to-play plans, but the Saskatchewan Hockey Association has not said anything yet.

The midget league is waiting for the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League to set their schedule, expected around July 29, said McDonald, although there was word that the B.C. junior hockey won’t start up until December.

“There are probably more questions than answers right now,” he added, noting that while no schedule is set, the discussions indicate there likely won’t be any travel for games until the new year.

The first few games will likely be amongst the four southern teams, just driving there and back with no overnight stays, he said. The schedule will likely be 30 games altogether, with only six games to be played in October and November, and 24 games between December and March.

“There’s lots of ideas out there. It’s an uncertain time, for sure,” said McDonald, outlining that the plans are for two morning practices each week and two after-school practices with Fridays off as “culture days” for the girls.

John Corrigan, who billeted one of the goalies last year, had some questions around what will be set for the girls to do during the season.

“Last year there were large gaps between games. It wasn’t a problem, but the girls had a lot of time on their hands and weren’t doing a lot,” he said.

McDonald said part of the player development will be educating the girls on activities that they could be doing when they have spare time, and he and Kish have plans also that may see the girls involved more with minor hockey players.

“One thing I’ve said to the players is we’re going to have to adapt,” said McDonald.

One of the unknowns is what the team would do if one of the girls gets COVID. In junior hockey, as the players are over 18, they could isolate in a hotel, but the Gold Wings girls are under 18 and that won’t be an option for them.

In the team’s financial report, the total income for the past season was $170,247, including tickets sales, 50-50 sales, team fees and sponsorships.

The expenses totaled $173,206, resulting in a loss of just under $3,000. Expenses included tournaments in Portage La Prairie, Swift Current and Winnipeg, office and admin costs, team building and events, billet fees, dressing room rent, ice rent, league fees, officials, transportation, recruiting and professional fees.