Fort Frances’ Junior A hockey season is going to be on hold a little longer as COVID-19 restrictions are holding up the season.
The Fort Frances Lakers Junior A hockey team is set to make their season debut on Nov. 28 with an exhibition game against the Red Lake Miners in Red Lake.
The start to the season is later than hoped but Bernie Lynch, the new head coach of the Lakers and also new to Fort Frances, is hopeful that the rest of the season will come together.
In light of that hope comes good news that as of Tuesday morning, the Lakers now have a dressing room, something that once was a basic necessity but has been out of reach because of the pandemic. This has forced players to change in hallways or come to the rink fully dressed, something that has been the most frustrating as a new coach Lynch says.
“For me it’s been the frustration that the boys exude when they have to change in the hallways, but we can’t control what other people are doing, all we can do is cooperate and do our best,” Lynch said.
The Lakers had their training camp on Oct. 16 and despite restrictions, Lynch says it was a positive experience and since then, the team has been getting stronger and picking up momentum.
Lynch says the team’s biggest strength so far is speed but as a coach his goal is for the players to keep improving.
“The goals for any coach is you want to win,” Lynch laughed. “We have a lot of local boys on the team we want to see them get better, we want to see them improve, break some of the bad habits that they have and we’d like to see the team in general improve.”
Although they now have a dressing room, restrictions about what time players and staff can come in and out of the arena are still in place and players must wear masks in the dressing room. This isn’t the league’s biggest challenge. The most pressing concern is spectators not being allowed in the arena.
Gary Silander, president of the league says having people in the stands is not just about cheering on the team, but it’s also a form of income and what makes the season possible.
“Without putting people in the stands, we can’t afford to play the game. We have to have people to pay our way,” Silander said.
With border restrictions still in place, the league will have to shorten their roster to five Canadian teams made up of mostly Canadian players.
The Lakers are set to play two exhibition games against the Red Lake Miners and two against The Dryden Ice Dogs which will wrap up on Dec. 15. No definite dates beyond that have been announced.
Though the team isn’t set to play until the end of the month, those in the community can show their support by buying 400 Club tickets. A $500 draw will be held November 14 at 3:30 p.m. outside of the Memorial Sports Centre. Tickets are $50 each, with 27 chances to win between November 14 and April 30, including two special $1,000 draws on December 14 and April 30. To purchase a ticket, contact any Lakers Board of Director, or call Ria McPherson at 274-9679.