The Alberta Junior Hockey League began its season about two weeks ago, but now it says it won't be able to continue play due to the province's new restrictions. (Facebook/Drumheller Dragons)

The puck isn’t going to drop on the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s regular season for at least the next few weeks because of the province’s newest restrictions.

AJHL commissioner Ryan Bartoshyk says after meeting with provincial officials on Wednesday, the league decided they couldn’t apply for an exemption.

“Understanding the parameters around that exemption those are identified essentially for a ‘bubble.’”

He says, unlike the National Hockey League, there’s no way the bubble scenario could work in a league like the AJHL.

“Our infrastructure and our importance to our communities wouldn’t allow us to create that scenario.”

The AJHL began the regular season on Nov. 13 and it was clear right from the start there were challenges.

Four positive tests of COVID-19 were confirmed this week and that number could potentially grow pending additional results.

Bartoshyk says it was tough because of the nature of the league, adding interactions outside of the rink are often unavoidable.

“You just recognize that those interactions may be taking place. Whether it’s our athletes or our billets or someone in school, those connections exist in our communities,” Bartoshyk said. “And that really creates the challenges for us and that’s why we can’t create a true bubble within our communities.”

So the big question, where does the league go from here? How do they get the game back on the ice in a same manner?

Bartoshyk says the work starts now.

“You know the conversations with Alberta Health and our chief medical officer and the government – they have to start this week,” Bartoshyk said. “We want to be ready as far as what our game needs to look like returning. If we need to adjust and adapt our guidelines in order for us to get back on the ice that’s what we’ll do.”

The AJHL board of governors will meet on Dec. 19 to try and determine a timeline and updated protocols for a return to play.