Lloydminster, AB – The Lloydminster Bobcats have officially been denied participation in the Alberta Junior Hockey League Return to Play Plan at this time due to the public health restrictions of the Saskatchewan Government. The AJHL has been approved by Alberta Health Services and will play through until May 2021.
The organization exhausted all efforts to resolve barriers to meet the requirements of the Saskatchewan Government. So far the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League has also been unable to meet requirements, while the Western Hockey League has been approved by forming a bubble in Regina, SK. Attempts were made to establish a bubble in Lloydminster, but the team was shut out by circumstance.
Bobcats GM / Head Coach Nigel Dube says, “We have created multiple proposals to try and make it work, exploring and exhausting every avenue. We even looked at options with a very steep price tag, but it just was not enough”.
It has been a one-in-a-century pandemic, but the Bobcats organization was resilient trying to give their athletes the best possible opportunity at exposure and development to the next level. Earlier in the Fall, the team was forced to begin the season in Kitscoty, AB, which is located 20 kilometers west of the Border City. The team was able to start the development season there and hosted the Sherwood Park Crusaders on October 16th before being allowed back into the Civic Centennial Centre in Lloydminster under Saskatchewan’s protocols on October 17th.
Dube had made multiple transactions and signings recently to prepare the Bobcats roster for the return of the AJHL. The Bobcats signed their future prospects whose seasons ended short when Hockey Alberta announced there would be no more game play for the AEHL. Those players would have came into Lloydminster this Spring ahead of next season including Chase Visser (St. Albert Raiders), Connor Burke (Calgary Northstars), Nolan Henderson (Calgary Flames), Jack Parker (St. Albert Raiders). The team had also acquired three players from the Manitoba Junior Hockey League whose season was cancelled in 20-year old defenceman Cole Dekoninck (Portage Terriers), Colby Jaquet (Dauphin Kings), and Dylan Meilun (Winkler Flyers).
“This was going to give us the opportunity to bring in our future players early and give them an opportunity to experience Junior hockey and the city of Lloydminster. Acquiring the three players from Manitoba was giving them the opportunity to play out the rest of the season,” added Dube.
Dube continued, “The boys want to play hockey, I want to play hockey. The 20-year-olds want to graduate a few games richer, there are scholarship questions and a whole lot more. It has been like tryouts where you sit on pins and needles hoping for the best outcome, but really you just do your best and it is out of your hands.”
At 11:20am on February 25th, just hours before the trade deadline, Dube received notification stating at this time there is not an option for Lloydminster to join the AJHL return. Dube is quick to say the City of Lloydminster representatives did everything they could, the Saskatchewan government, the Ministry of Health and public health officials all looked at every option thinkable, however, it is not an option to change the rules for just one team. Dube also realizes life and health do matter the most.