The Calgary Hitmen will have a new home for the upcoming 2021 season.
As a result of ongoing COVID-19 protocols, the Western Hockey League (WHL) club announced it will play home games this year at the Seven Chiefs Sportsplex on the Tsuut’ina Nation.
The temporary move out of the Scotiabank Saddledome is required because of National Hockey League and American Hockey League restrictions governing the Calgary Flames and Stockton Heat.
“We would like to thank Tsuut’ina chief and council in working with us to use their facilities and are excited and honoured to call the state-of-the-art Seven Chiefs Sportsplex our home-away-from-home for the next four months,” said Hitmen vice-president and alternate governor Mike Moore.
“The Calgary Hitmen won’t just be teammates this year - they’ll also be roommates," Moore added. "Members of the squad will all be living at the Grey Eagle Resort, also on T’ssu Tina land and just a stone’s throw from the arena."
The team is forgoing its tradition of providing billet families to players in order to minimize personal contacts and potential exposure.
Players will undergo COVID-19 testing upon they arrival in a rival city each weekend, and again before taking the ice
Hitmen players will also be required to stay at the Grey Eagle Resort for the duration of the season to help limit the number of close contacts with other people.
Last week, the WHL received approval from the province and Alberta Health to allow for a 24-game regular season schedule with no spectators permitted to enter any facility to watch games.
All five Alberta WHL teams will make up an Alberta-based Central Division and play their games entirely within the province.
The Hitmen receive an opening weekend bye and begin play on March 5.
Calgary players will report to the city on Feb. 13 for a quarantine and training camp period prior to regular season play.
Moore says even though the season is shorter than most and will be played under COVID-19 restrictions, players are just glad to get back on the ice.
“These guys have been at home for 10 months, not being able to play the game they love, “ he says. “The fact they can develop and play and be with each other, not just on the ice but in person as well, going through this together will improve things for everybody.”