- Written by Steven Wilson
Without a start date for the 2020-21 SJHL season, a few teams in the league have been holding an extended training camp. One of those teams is the Richardson Pioneer Weyburn Red Wings.
Players reported to camp earlier this month, and have been undergoing on-ice and off-ice sessions to get ready for the season. For head coach Rich Pilon, so far everything has been going well.
“We don’t want to get too excited but you want to try to have an even keel going through this, and right now, just with the influx of new players that came in compared to a year ago, I believe we are in a way better spot than we were last year,” Pilon told Discover Weyburn.
The number of players this season is limited due to the restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and unlike most years, the camp itself is closed to the public, to comply with the public health orders. This hasn’t stopped the players from working hard to earn their spot on the final roster for the club.
Pilon explained the players who are here, are showing what the coaching staff expected of them.
“Everybody is who they are, and the biggest thing now is letting these guys decide, basically, who is going to be here,” Pilon said. “The 02’s that have come in are doing really well and so are the 01’s that we’ve brought in so it’s made for a very competitive camp.”
With the players in camp, Pilon isn’t anticipating many more moves from the team, aside from the tough decisions every coach has to make to bring the roster down to the limits imposed by the league. This coming after a season where Pilon admits the team developed a reputation of having a revolving door.
“(We’ve) gone out and got players, as we needed to get stronger, which we have; we need to get bigger, which we have, and we had to add some scoring which, that, time will tell but the guy we brought in looks like he can shoot the puck.”
While the team is in the camp, the uncertainty of the start of the season is something on the mind of not only the players but Pilon as well. When fans look to the other Junior A leagues in western Canada, many have dates set for the start fo their season. The MJHL starts October 9th, the BCHL on December 1st, and it is expected the AJHL will start sometime in October. For the SJHL, nothing has been set as of yet.
“I thought for sure we would be starting before everybody just because of our cases being so low, but that doesn’t seem to be coming to fruition,” Pilon related. The league was originally set to start on September 25th, but that date has been pushed back.
Many in the league are speculating the start date for the SJHL will be determined sometime after September 22nd, which would be two weeks since the resumption of school in the province. This would be an indicator of how COVID-19 would move through large gatherings in the province and have a direct impact on the league.