Club president Don Moores said his Kamloops Blazers are waiting for answers they can relay to fans wishing to watch hockey inside Sandman Centre this season.
“At this point, in any particular facility like Sandman Centre, you’re allowed to have 65 people and that’s it, but we are trying to get some clarification because Sandman Centre is such a different animal and has lots of opportunity to do some things that would be, I think, within the guidelines of the provincial government,” Moores told KTW.
“We’re working on that as we speak.”
The Western Hockey League is scheduled to begin its pandemic-delayed regular season on Jan. 8, with each team aiming to play 50 games, all within their own divisions, by May 2.
League commissioner Ron Robison said in June at least 50 per cent capacity in arenas would be required for teams in the gate-driven WHL to resume operations, but that number is no longer set in stone.
“The number may be significantly lower than 50 per cent given the health restrictions that apply in various provinces and states currently,” Robison said last month on a media conference call.
Each of the four provinces and two states in which the WHL operates are working under different COVID-19 protocols, including B.C., which has a 50-person limit on public gatherings.
On Oct. 22, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry warned gathering sizes may be reduced, as the province announced record-setting virus numbers, the majority of which are clustered in the Fraser Health region.
Meanwhile, in Saskatchewan, WHL teams have the green light to fill buildings to a maximum of 50 per cent on Jan. 8 if they follow social distancing protocols. That could change if virus numbers continue to increase in the Prairie province.
Saskatchewan’s top doctor, Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab, said on Nov. 3 the province may be experiencing its first wave of COVID-19, while other areas of the country are grappling with a second wave.
The Swift Current Broncos have released protocols on their website. They include fans most likely being required to wear face masks at all times, except when eating or drinking at their seats, and social distancing between groups of fans that will be assigned to zones in the arena. Each zone will have separate parking, entrances, exits and access to washrooms and merchandise stores.
“We’ve been watching what’s going on in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, with them being allowed to have 50 per cent fans with social distancing,” Moores said. “We’re working hard to keep people safe in an environment they’ll enjoy and we won’t have to worry about anyone spreading any COVID.”
Moores said the City of Kamloops informed him 65 people are allowed inside Sandman Centre, but he is unclear if any fans would be allowed in the building if the season were to start today.
“We're hoping to have some clarification on that within the next couple weeks. We've been working with the city through this whole process,” Moores said.
“It holds 6,000 people. We certainly see some ways that would keep people safe and also be respectful of all of the provincial government guidelines. That’s what we are working on with the city and public health, trying to determine if what we think might work would be agreeable to them.”