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A temperature check is also mandatory before players can hit the field.

The whole process took some getting used to, but the Thunder has accepted that it’s better than the alternative of not practising at all.

Although they stayed engaged via Zoom before the season was cancelled, the uncertainty of the COVID situation became “very taxing on everybody mentally,” MacAulay said.

“Two weeks ago when we first got on the field, you could just see how much the guys had really missed it. Even for myself, mentally, you kind of get back into a little bit of a normal flow. You’re around people you like and you’re doing the things you love, so it has been great. It’s a really strong family atmosphere. That has been really nice to be a part of.”

The team plans to continue practising three times per week until mid-October. The 65- to 70-man roster has been split up, utilizing adjacent fields at staggered times to avoid unnecessary contact.

Although an overall 80-player hub is permitted, the Thunder allows no more than 30 people on a field at one time.

“Basically we’re running two different practices,” said MacAulay, who initially focused on skill work and one-on-one drills. “(The latest restrictions) will probably allow us to do some 12-on-12 stuff and maybe build towards a scrimmage in the end. But we’re taking it slow and making sure we’re doing things appropriately.”

MacAulay said the Thunder has talked to the rival Saskatoon Hilltops about the possibility of playing some form of exhibition game this fall, but it’s far from a done deal.

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