With the ever-changing landscape of COVID-19 protocols and regulations set in place by both the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League, it appears as though the Manitoba Moose will play the majority of its season out of Bell MTS Iceplex.
Starting 2020-21 with four-straight games against the Toronto Marlies from Bell MTS Place – or the downtown home venue of the Winnipeg Jets – the Moose will then travel to Laval for a four-game set against the Rocket in Quebec.
Those eight games, however, come in a 13-day stretch, meaning the team plays much more often than every second day. Opening the season on Monday, February 15 against the Toronto Marlies at home, the Moose host Toronto three more in the following four days (February 16, 18 and 19), before playing Laval four times in six nights (February 22, 24, 26, 27).
With uncertainty on numerous fronts, the AHL provided each of the five Canadian clubs with their ‘opening month’ schedule last week. Through February, Manitoba, Laval and Toronto will each play eight times, while Belleville and Stockton will see just four games apiece before March.
“It’s huge,” Jets’ forward and former Manitoba Moose star Mason Appleton said of the AHL’s return on Monday. “Obviously it’s the feeder league for the NHL, so being able to develop in that league and turn into an NHL player, it’s great. And to see them finally starting back up again, it’s what those players need. You can only practise for so long and get so much better in practice. You really develop playing in games, and that’s where you take the next step in your career. So that league finally getting going is awesome.”
But on Monday, CJOB 680 first reported that the team will be playing its March schedule out of Bell MTS Iceplex, located at Winnipeg’s westernmost point. This news comes as a bit of a shocker, as the Jets and Moose had previously been sharing the downtown rink since the team’s return from the east coast.
This change may not be permanent, but as the ever-evolving world of COVID-19 protocol goes, so do plans for the remainder of the 2020-21 season. Dressing room access, shared spaces and number limitation have played a role in this decision. With the remaining AHL schedule potentially being released on a month-by-month basis, the Moose will not only have to wait and see who they play, but now also where they play… even at home.