Players from around the SJHL are reacting to the news of the 2020-21 season being cancelled.

The SJHL announced earlier this week that its return to play proposal was shot down by the province.

“It’s one of those moments where you’re just kind of left speechless,” said La Ronge forward and captain Chad McIlwain. “I think a lot of it has to do with kind of just how things kind of unraveled and the timing. Obviously, it’s not just the players, but the coaches and coaching staff – a lot of board members I think have been waiting.”

McIlwain was in his final season of junior hockey and he says he is looking at playing college hockey in the fall.

It’s a case of déjà vu for McIlwain and some of his other teammates who saw the 2020 playoffs evaporate into thin air last March at the start of the pandemic.

The La Ronge Ice Wolves were only able to play five games this season and they posted a 4-1 record. Their last game was Nov. 20 when they beat the Melfort Mustangs 3-1 at the Mel Hegland Uniplex.

Will Smith is a 20-year-old forward with the Ice Wolves. He played just five games in the SJHL and only spent several weeks in the community, but he says it was a great experience.

“It ended up being the best place that I’ve lived in my junior hockey career,” said Smith. “The community, the coaches, the teammates, the billet families – everybody has your back. Everybody is just trying to make you a better hockey player, but also a better human being.”

Smith also has aspirations of college hockey and feels if this season was able to continue, the Ice Wolves would have made some noise in the playoffs.

The SJHL says its focus is now on next season and getting a full campaign in.

Meantime, Saskatchewan-based WHL teams and Western Hockey League clubs from Manitoba are playing in a hub environment in Regina.

(PHOTO: Will Smith during a game this season. Photo courtesy of Brandon White.)