Red Wings eager to return to play

High Prairie Red Wing player Benny Yellowknee, left, battles in the corner for the puck against the Enoch Northern Alberta Tomahawks in Greater Metro Junior A Hockey League action Oct. 24 in High Prairie.

Richard Froese
South Peace News

The High Prairie Red Wings are eager to return to junior hockey action – hopefully in mid- to late January – after restrictions in the coronavirus pandemic put the season on ice.

The Greater Metro Junior A Hockey League was scheduled to resume play on Jan. 15, says Derek Prue, expansion director of the division.

“That’s the plan,” Prue says.

However, Premier Jason Kenney announced Jan. 7 a further two-week extension of restrictions meaning Jan. 21 would be the earliest teams could play.

Teams last played Nov. 21 before the league closed down the season until early January with rising restrictions and cases in the pandemic.

“Everybody’s excited to get back in action,” High Prairie head coach Kevin Hopfner says.

“We want to extend our seven-game winning streak.

“Hopefully, we get back to some kind of normal and we’ll get to play.”

Ice rinks and fitness centres in Alberta were also shut down by government order Dec. 8.

Prue says the provincial government announced that rinks may be able to open if the number of cases falls.

That has left players with few options to stay fit.

“Most of our players are doing dry-land training to help keep them in shape,” Hopfner says.

High Prairie sits in first place in the West Division with 14 points on seven wins and three losses.

Slave Lake has eight points on four wins and four losses.

Enoch Northern Alberta Tomahawks also have eight points, on four wins and two losses.

Division newcomers Fox Creek has four points on one win and two overtime losses.

The GMHL still plans and hopes to complete a 42-game regular season.

“We’ll play right into April and May with the playoffs,” Prue says.

The league announced plans in November for an early and extended Christmas break.

“The Government of Alberta’s new health restrictions allow for junior A organizations to apply to continue play during the current restrictive period,” states a message on the GMHL website posted when the break was announced in late November.

“However, out of an abundance of caution, it has been determined that the best course of action is to extend the holiday break as well as the season itself.”

High Prairie Red Wing player Benny Yellowknee, right, scores against the Enoch Northern Alberta Tomahawks in Greater Metro Junior A Hockey League action on Oct. 24.

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