The Manitoba U-18 AAA hockey season will begin on October 16. On Friday, the league announced its Phase II return to play plan, highlighting the various changes that will be in effect for the coming 2020-21 Provincial AAA season.
The program held a Zoom meeting back on August 16, with which the Board of Directors determined that the 2020-21 season would occur, and created a task force to help determine the league start date, schedule structure and other health and safety factors.
“The Task Force will focus on (1) ensuring compliance with appropriate heath guidelines (provincial, regional, and Hockey Manitoba), (2) limiting contact between teams, (3) limiting travel between regions, and (4) limiting hotel stays and contact with non-members,” AAA Manitoba wrote in its League Update. “The Manitoba U-18 AAA Hockey League must remain flexible with its Return to Play Strategy. We look forward to a safe 2020-2021 hockey season.”
Through the workings of the task force, the following decisions have been made regarding the upcoming season:
– A modified 36-game regular season schedule will begin on October 16.
– Teams will be divided into three divisions following the Prairie Mountain, Southern, Interlake-Eastman, Winnipeg and Northwestern Ontario Health Regions.
- West Division: Parkland Rangers, Yellowhead Chiefs, Brandon Wheat Kings, and Southwest Cougars.
- Central Division: Central Plains Capitals, Pembina Valley Hawks, Interlake Lightning, and Eastman Selects
- East Division: Winnipeg Bruins, Winnipeg Thrashers, Winnipeg Wild, and Kenora Thistles.
- As a geographical outlier, Norman’s schedule will differ significantly from other member clubs.
From Manitoba U-18 AAA Hockey League Commissioner Levi Taylor:
In an effort to reduce travel, hotel stays, and contact between multiple clubs in succession, Phase 1 of the season will consist of divisional play and 3-game mini-series over ~10 day periods. Using the East Division as an example, Phase 1 would see the Wild play the Bruins in a 3 game set followed by a 3 game set against the Thrashers, followed by a 3 game set against the Thistles. The teams would then repeat the cycle to complete Phase 1.
Should a positive case or outbreak occur, the three (3) division structure will allow the league to isolate individual divisions while permitting the others to continue to play.
At the conclusion of Phase 1, and subject to its completion without COVID-related cancellations, Phase 2 will consist of interdivisional play. Teams will play home and home series against teams outside of their own division.
Continuing our effort to reduce hotel stays and contact between multiple clubs in succession, Norman’s schedule will see the team host all 12 clubs for 2 games in Thompson, and Norman will travel south to play 6 teams for 2 games. As always, the games will be confined to weekend play, and the league intends to isolate Norman’s games from any 3 game set played between divisional opponents.
Finally, as directed by Hockey Manitoba, each team will appoint a Communications Officer to be responsible for monitoring and maintaining safety and hygiene protocols. Communication Officers will be required to ensure all heath authority guidelines as well as Hockey Manitoba guidelines and recommendations are adhered to for each on or off-ice session (practice, games, video, etc.).