QMJHL's six Maritime teams begin shortened season on Oct. 2
HALIFAX -- The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is returning to action on Friday, Oct. 2 with all six Maritime teams in action.
Unlike the NHL, which is playing to empty arenas, the QMJHL will offer limited seating capacity with spectators required to follow public health guidelines.
The Moncton Wildcats will host the Charlottetown Islanders, the Acadie-Bathurst Titan will host the Saint John Sea Dogs and the Cape Breton Eagles will take on the Halifax Mooseheads at Centre 200 in Sydney, N.S.
Halifax and Saint John will have their home openers the next night, on Saturday, Oct. 3, and Charlottetown will play its home opener on Friday, Oct. 23.
The 2020-21 regular season will be shortened from 68 to 60 games to comply with the league's COVID-19 return-to-play protocol. The league is divided into three groups of six teams and each team will play its five divisional rivals 12 times, with six games at home and six games on the road.
The regular season is schedule to end Saturday, April 3 and the playoff format will be determined at some point during the season.
In a news release, the Halifax Mooseheads said they and the managers of the arena where they play, had to get their reopening plan reviewed and approved by "public health, occupational health and safety at Department of Labour and Advance Education and Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage."
"We've changed our seating plan. We've worked hand in hand with our partners at Scotiabank Centre to provide a safe, responsible environment for players, fans, arena staff and members of our organization," said Mooseheads owner Bobby Smith.
Part of the league's reopening policy requires teams to limit spectators, so there will be fewer seats available this year compared to previous years.
In Halifax, for example, the Scotiabank Centre will be divided into separate zones to create "bubbles" of a maximum of 200 people, all of whom will use the same washrooms, concessions, and entrance/exit points. Capacity will be 2,000 for the upcoming season and tickets will only be sold in groups of up to 10 within the same bubble.
All spectators will have to wear a non-medical mask at all times, unless they are eating or drinking.
Tickets will be mobile-only to reduce close contact and there will be more cleaning and sanitizing of frequently-touched surfaces. There will also be contactless hand-sanitizing stations throughout the arena.
In Moncton, every second row of seats will be left empty and all aisle seats will remain empty for games as well. There must also be at least three empty seats between each group of spectators.
Fans will be required to wear masks, unless they are in their seats. Food and beverages can only be consumed while sitting in your seat.