University of Regina bubble a big win for WHL teams

University of Regina bubble a big win for WHL teams
Prince Albert Raiders team van parked outside the University of Regina bubble. Currently seven teams are living in the bubble while they play a 24-game season. Photo by Conchita Galvez

The Regina Pats endured 366 days of the “craziest offseason,” including a move to on-campus living, before returning to the ice for a meaningful hockey game.

“It is extremely exciting, said new Pats captain Logan Nijhoff. We have all been waiting so long. This has been the craziest offseason.”

The Pats last played a Western Hockey League game on March 11, 2020. The 2020-21 season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They have since regrouped with six other teams from Saskatchewan and Manitoba at the University of Regina student residence, where they have to adhere to strict safety measures.

“For the first five days we weren’t allowed to see anyone or talk to anyone on our team, said Nijhoff. We were pretty much locked in our rooms besides being allowed to go to the bathroom. We had breakfast, lunch, and dinner delivered to the rooms.”

The Pats, an Eastern Division WHL team, were scheduled to play their first game March 12 -marking a year and a day since they last played a league game.

The U of R in conjunction with Luther College is now home to WHL teams from Saskatchewan to Manitoba. Luther College is hosting the Pats who arrived on February 27. The teams are expected to be in the university hub for close to one month.

Dave Button, Vice President of the University of Regina says protocols in place with ensure the safety of the everyone. The residence has the capacity to hold close to 1700 students and currently there are only 250 students on campus.

“The University is pleased to be able to support the WHL, the teams, players and fans in holding a hockey season, along with the many benefits this will bring to the City of Regina and the Province,” says Button.

Nijhoff says the U of R is the best accommodating place in the city to safely host the players. Ensuring the safety of players and students alike, the teams were required to complete a mandatory quarantine period along with rigorous testing.

Upon arrival the teams were required to get tested, and then tested again within a few days. It wasn’t until players were given the all clear that they allowed to begin practice. According to the WHL Network a total of 428 tests were completed for the Eastern division alone. The league announced there have been zero positive cases in the Regina hub centre.

“We are not allowed to see any of the other teams,” said Nijhoff. “We need to wear masks when interacting, keep a safe distance, and sanitize. We can take our masks off for the ice. Once we get back into the dressing room its masks back on.”

For players like Nijhoff, the approval to begin playing has been long awaited.

“It has been extremely exciting. We have all been waiting so long. It is almost like being a kid again at a tournament in a hotel”.

Those fortunate enough to play sympathize with the teams still awaiting the green-light of a year long postponed season.

I know there are lots of kids that aren’t allowed to play right now so we are extremely excited. We just can’t thank everyone enough”.

Nijhoff says fans will be missed at the Brandt Center for 2021-2021 season but he knows the Pats Fans will be cheering along. Pats games are available on the WHL live link. They will also be available on the radio with 620 CKRM.

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