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Pontiacs get ready to start exhibition games

The AJHL announced the exhibition season will begin Oct. 9
The Pontiacs will be facing off against the Fort McMurray Oil Barons in the first round of exhibition games. File photo.

BONNYVILLE – The puck is about to drop for the Bonnyville Jr. A Pontiacs exhibition season.

The Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) announced Oct. 2 that the exhibition season is slated to begin Oct. 9, which will see players enter into two-team cohorts for the month of October.

“We’ve been given the go-ahead, not only by Alberta Health Services (AHS) but the AJHL to form cohorts of 50 people,” explained Pontiacs head coach Rick Swan. “What that means is we’re able to be paired with another team in the AJHL that’s in close proximity to be able to start exhibition play for the next three weeks.”

The Pontiacs were paired up with the Fort McMurray Oil Barons and the first game is scheduled for Oct. 9 at the R.J. Lalonde Arena. Puck drop is 7 p.m.

The league didn’t receive an exemption on the 100-person limit for indoor facilities from the province and Swan noted the Pontiacs are asking for some clarity on that number.

“We’re trying to sort out what that priority would be because I know there’s a lot of people with all teams in our league that want to come out and see some AJHL action.”

In a statement, the AJHL said “Arena capacity limits, social distancing protocols within the facility, and the ticket sales process will be dictated by the regulations within each community and the respective team.”

No league passes will be accepted for entry until facility capacity limits are increased, the statement continued. 

Games will be broadcast online through for a set price.

Swan noted the teamis excited to hit the ice against the Oil Barons in the coming weeks.

“We’ve been working extremely hard in a development season to be in a position that if they did announce that we could play games that we would be ready for that and we wouldn’t have to delay and have a training camp because they announced the exhibition game schedule,” he said, adding the team is shaping up to be a strong one this year.

“We’ve got a really strong group of veteran players that are returning. We have 15 returning players and seven 20-year-olds until league play starts. We’ve got a real good mix of veterans and older players that are tremendous character kids that not only will make an impact on our team and on our ice play but definitely in the community as well.”

The Pontiacs will face-off against the Oil Barons on home ice on Oct. 9 and 10 before traveling to Fort McMurray for back-to-back games on Oct. 16 and 17.

A decision on the next series of exhibition play and the start of the regular season will be dependent on the expansion of cohorts and increase in facility capacity limit as determined by the provincial government, the AJHL stated. Once they’re given the go-ahead by the province, the AJHL will begin their regular season.

Robynne Henry, Bonnyville Nouvelle