The Provincial Junior Hockey League announced this week it hopes to drop the puck on the 2020-21 hockey season on Dec. 1.
That is welcome news for local Jr. C hockey teams such as the Orillia Terriers.
Terriers head coach Dallyn Telford admits the team was hopeful for an earlier start to the season. In pre-COVID days, training camp is usually held in August ahead of a regular season that typically starts in mid-September.
“At the end of the day it is what it is. We have to follow government regulations and hope that on Dec. 1 we get the all-clear and we are ready to go,” Telford said.
Telford speculates that the usual 42-game season will be scrapped in favour of a 24-game season that will be followed by a regular playoff format.
He said the Terriers have 18 players signed to their roster and will begin preparing for the upcoming season by practising twice a week - beginning this weekend.
“We have the mentality of this is sort of an opportunity for us to be together for three months and work on our trade,” Telford said.
Having more time for players to mesh and develop their skills before the season is mostly a plus for the Terriers, however, Telford is also preparing for there to be challenges.
“We have to keep it interesting, it’s tough to practice without playing games for three months straight, but it’s going to be up to everybody to bring energy to the rink every time and keep things fun,” he said.
Another challenge the team faces when arriving at the rink is the safety protocols keeping their locker room closed.
Before players arrive at the rink for practice they will be asked to be fully dressed outside of the arena with the exception of skates, helmets, and gloves. When they enter the arena wearing a mask, they will put on the rest of their equipment in the hallway spaced out six feet from their teammates.
Immediately after practice, players will take off their skates, helmets and gloves and leave the building to take off the rest of their equipment.
Telford said he believes that such protocols will remain in place once the puck drops for the regular season.
“I’m sure there will be extra safety measures when we are given the green light to play. I don’t know how drastic they will be,” Telford said.
“We are going to try to have some fun with it, the only way to go about this is with a positive attitude.”
Telford said that despite the unusual new norm that players will have to adjust to, they are feeling thankful and lucky to be headed back to the rink.
“We are going to come to the rink with smiles on our faces. Yeah it’s going to be different, but it is what we make it,” he said.
While Telford says it stills feels too early to speculate on if fans will be able to attend Terriers games this year, he says the team remains hopeful as they seem to play better in their home rink being backed by fan support.