SJHL to resume play with limited fans in attendance

Bryan Eneas · CBC News · 

The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League announced its return-to-play guidelines earlier this week — and fans of the league should be happy as they’ll be able to attend games in some capacity.

Up to 150 people will be allowed to attend games. People who attend will be required to wear masks and abide by physical distancing regulations.

While fan attendance will be limited, there’s a chance it could be increased if things go smoothly.

A limit on revenue

Being limited to just 150 fans in arenas would effectively eliminate about half the team’s revenue.

Growing active COVID-19 case numbers are worrisome in terms of increasing crowd size, though.

150 limit a ‘short-term’ solution

The Melville Millionaires general manager and head coach said the team was  previously capable of bringing an average of 600 people per night.

Mike Rooney said the 150 fan limit, while good news, is unsustainable for the team long-term.

“[It’s] certainly not a range that we want to see it at in the best of times but right now, we’ll definitely take that,” Rooney said.

“We financially can’t make it work at 150.”

Rooney said in his position as general manager and head coach, he hopes the guidelines are followed, so that the number of fans in arenas will be allowed to increase.

He noted the pandemic has had a drastic impact on other aspects of the Millionaires’ operation.

Fundraising events, which have historically helped the team, have been cancelled or impacted in other ways. Corporate sponsorship and other revenue streams are down this year.

Even with dramatically increased fan totals — which he admitted was unlikely — he said there’s no way the Millionaires can recoup what was already lost.

“It’s going to be a hard road to really work our way down but at the same time, these teams, we feel the league is important to Saskatchewan, we feel the teams are important to these communities,” Rooney said, adding hockey won’t be put above anyone’s safety or wellbeing.

Fundraisers and volunteers

Rooney said for people who want to help teams, opportunities range from volunteering to billet players, to participating in fundraising efforts, to getting involved in helping game-day efforts will help operations run smoothly.

“This has been really a stressful time to get these events going again,” he said.

“Let’s get through the pandemic times and let’s try to keep living. We don’t have to run from it but we’ve got to live with it.”