University of Regina to house WHL

The University of Regina sign outside of Riddell. Morgan Ortman

Looking to keep players and students safe while the season gets its start.

Recent news from the WHL will be impacting the University of Regina moving forward.

The city of Regina will be acting as the hub for the Eastern Division of the WHL, with the University providing the living quarters for players that make their way here. Vice President Dave Button made an announcement regarding the situation, stating the following: 

“Seven teams from Saskatchewan and Manitoba will begin a 24-game season starting March 12, with games being held at the Brandt Centre in Regina. The hub centre – or ‘bubble’ model, in conjunction with the implementation of a vigorous list of prevention measures the teams must follow, is considered the best approach to safely resume hockey at this elite level, while preventing the spread of COVID-19.”

In the same statement, Button also made clear that this is a developing situation and how the U of R will adapt as it develops.

“While exact details and logistics are still being confirmed, the University of Regina, in conjunction with Luther College, is working with the WHL to provide the teams with accommodations during their hockey season. It is anticipated that five teams will stay in University of Regina residences and two teams will be housed at the Luther College residence.”

Button noted that student safety was first on the list of priorities and that the University was positive about their capability to deal with the influx of players.

“The health and safety of our students, faculty and staff remain our top priority and we will ensure appropriate measures and monitoring are in place to manage this increase in activity on campus. Together with Luther College, the University has the capacity to house more than 1700 people and currently there are approximately 250 students living in residence. Therefore we are able to accommodate these teams while maintaining appropriate physical distancing, cleanliness, and other pandemic requirements.

“We are confident that the comprehensive safety measures established by the WHL and Saskatchewan Health Authority, as well as the University’s own pandemic protocols, will safeguard the players, coaching and other staff, as well as the University members and broader communities.”

The situation was also discussed during the President’s Town Hall meeting, where I was able to ask about the level of responsibility that the University would take should a case arise. Both Dave Button and Darren Cherwaty were able to answer, with Button starting with the following:

“First of all, through our management,” said Button, “we’ve managed to avoid many instances here on campus at all. I’d like to highlight that we have a good plan, we have a safe campus.

“We are designated. The designated learning institute in the federal sense of the word [in international terms]. And so, to be able to get designated that way, we had to come up with a good solid plan with how we take and prevent these things and how we manage them if they exist.”

Button continued on regarding the effectiveness of the University’s quarantines.

“To date, we’ve done about 250 [quarantines],” continued Button. “Quarantined international people, mainly students, but some other visitors that fulfilled that role as well. And if there were any testing, much like the assumption for someone that’s coming for an international quarantine, is the assumption that they are that they could be sick, it’s no different, really, in terms of a treatment. And if there were someone, if there was a need to take and isolate, of course, we’d follow all of the Health Authority guidelines.”

Darren Cherwaty, Director of Health, Safety and Wellness at the University of Regina,then provided his response with following:

“We’re working with the WHO and the SHA on the protocols that they have in place, which are fairly robust. I will tell you that, obviously, we will work closely with their own medical staff. And we are allocating, if need be particular isolation rooms and residents, just as we have before, so that in essence, if we have any positive cases, we will work with the SHA public health folks and make sure that players are isolated.”

Cherwaty also spoke on Button’s comments, offering a clearer view of what the protocols in place will entail.

“But as Dave mentioned,” continued Cherwaty. “Their protocols, the WHL protocols, currently under review by the SHA are very tight, and you will only see players on campus going to meals. Other than that, they are pretty much sequestered into their residences and will be traveling to and from the arena. But for the most part, other than meals, they will only be on campus, living in their residences.”

With the information provided, hopefully this will give students some breathing room as players begin to make their way to residences. Also, it looks as though the University is confident in making sure that students will be well taking care of during this time.

As the WHL season moves closer, the positive of having more local hockey will be a welcome return for those that have been patiently waiting. That being said, given how COVID has affected the landscape of the NHL, it is still of concern as to whether or not, when things get going, the WHL will be affected the same way.

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