The Manitoba Junior Hockey League will look a little different this coming season. Already having tryout camps underway across the league, the MJHL has been following strict COVID-19 protocol, as a way to help curb the spread of the virus, while managing to get its reps in for the coming season, set to begin on October 9.
Adding to the new-look MJHL will be the league’s first expansion club since 1999, as the league announced the addition of a Winnipeg-based team owned by the 50-Below Sports + Entertainment company. The new MJHL team will be the second club owned by 50-Below and will bring the league up to 12 teams for the first time since the folding of the St. James Canadians in 2003. In 1999, the Waywayseecappo Wolverines and Swan Valley Stampeders joined the league, which was home to 12 teams for four years.
“50 Below Sports + Entertainment, along with all of our member clubs, have really stepped up and put the players first to provide safe and competitive development conditions,” MJHL commissioner Kevin Saurette said in a league-issued press release. “These are trying times as teams continue with necessary preparations for the difficult season ahead as we are all committed to developing our players in a safe, structured and responsible environment.”
The implementation of a 12th team creates opportunities for a wider reach of Manitoban players to lace up in Junior ‘A’ action this fall, while also significantly assisting with the league’s Phase II of the return-to-play guidelines as per geographical positioning, divisional alignment, while also helping to limit travel as best as possible.
The 2020-21 season is set to begin on Friday, October 9, while training camps will open for each member team on Friday, September 18. The name and/or home arena for the new Winnipeg-based club has not yet been announced. That information, along with the 2020-21 MJHL schedule will be released this week.