The Winnipeg Jets are exploring the possibility of playing some games at the SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon, where there currently aren't attendance restrictions, though more work would need to be done and approvals secured before such an idea could come to fruition, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman has learned.
An eight-hour drive or 90-minute flight from Winnipeg, Saskatoon is among the closest locales for the Jets that are capable of hosting an NHL-level game without limitations on fans in attendance. The SaskTel Centre has 15,195 permanent stadium seats.
Currently, under provincial rules in Saskatchewan, masking is mandatory in all indoor public spaces and proof of vaccination or negative test requirements are in place for public access to many event venues, including sports-related ones where tickets are required that have GST charged on the ticket.
The Jets sent out a survey to season-seat holders on Thursday night, Friedman noted, asking them their opinion on the possibility. It is not known at this time how those surveyed responded.
Still, the exploration signals the Jets doing their legwork to find an alternative that would let them host fans for home games.
A recent mandate from Manitoba's provincial government said that, in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19, large gatherings would be restricted, leading to the Jets deciding fans would not be permitted to attend home games until at least Jan. 11.
The Jets initially expressed optimism that they would be able to continue hosting fans amid the country-wide surge in COVID-19 cases, citing attendees' adherence to masking policies. The government's mandate superseded that decision, though, leading to the organization's change of course.
All seven teams in Canada are playing under various levels of attendance restrictions imposed by provincial governments — from as low as zero per cent in Quebec to as high as 50 per cent in Alberta — the league has postponed a number of Canadian team games with hopes of rescheduling said games at a later date when more fans will be allowed back in the building.