OLDS — Olds Grizzlys head coach and GM Scott Atkinson says he and his team are excited to finally play a game again when they take on the Dragons in Drumheller this Saturday after months of following pandemic protocols at home. Game time is 7 p.m.
The Alberta Junior Hockey League announced its return to play plan March 1. Under that plan, teams playing are divided into cohorts. The Grizzlys are in one with the Drumheller Dragons and Camrose Kodiaks.
Plans call for a total of 52 games to be played on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from March 12 to April 4. The league will then take a break before changing the cohort groups and continuing game play in April.
Fans are still not allowed to attend AJHL games in person due to provincial pandemic restrictions. However, all games will be broadcast on Hockey TV.
During an interview, Atkinson said he and his squad are pumped to be back out in the ice, preparing for real hockey games again.
"It’s better than what it was, right," he said. “I mean, there’s always two ways to look at things. You can bemoan the fact that it’s not how it’s usually been but it’s better than what (it) has been, so I choose to view it in a positive light.”
The Grizzlys have been undertaking on-ice practices since Atkinson got the green light to do so on March 3.
“It’s business as usual, kind of preparing so we can be as good as we can be when we hit the ice against them. Tough opponents,” he said in regard to the Dragons.
That said, Atkinson admitted he doesn’t really know that to expect with the Dragons because of course, they too have been out of sight, due to the pandemic protocols.
He was asked if the cohort system provides the Grizzlys with any advantages or disadvantages.
“I just think that, you know, given the state of affairs, when you know, there’s no fans and there’s no revenue generation, obviously opponents that are closer to home reduce cost,” he said.
“And they’re natural rivals because they’re close, so I view it very positively.”
When Atkinson isn’t dealing with his players he’s working with kids in minor hockey, providing skill sessions in the evening.
He conceded that makes things “a little bit” busy.
“It’s good, though,” he said.