The Saskatchewan Rattlers may not have won their Monday game at the SaskTel Center in Saskatoon, but they have taken another big step forward, becoming the first professional sports team in the province to welcome fans again since the lift. restrictions related to COVID-19.

The province’s last remaining restrictions were lifted on Sunday, clearing the way for around 1,000 basketball fans to return to the stands for Monday night’s Rattlers home game.

“I think the fans really help the elk in the game,” said Brad Kraft, vice-president of the Canadian Elite Basketball League team.

“[If] you’re depressed it’s hard to get back to it if you don’t have people cheering you on. “

The team, which lost 87-70 Monday night to the Edmonton Stingers, had played their previous three home games this season with limited numbers in the stands, inviting 150 frontline workers to watch. But Monday was the first home game of the season for the team where participation was open to everyone.

Kraft said it took a lot of work behind the scenes to prepare for the fans’ return, but he thinks people were excited to come out, adding that the team has seen an increase in ticket sales.

The Rattlers’ organization remains cautious of spectators near the players, he said.

“We are following government regulations in terms of restrictions, distancing, masking.… We have added spaced seats,” Kraft said.

“We’re also going to require masks on the ground for spectators. And then, of course, all staff and staff have to wear masks as well.”

Saskatchewan Rattlers fans watch the Rattlers warm up ahead of Monday night’s game. (Trevor Bothorel / CBC)

The Rattlers had live DJs during the game, giveaways and fan interaction to welcome their supporters back, Kraft said.

“We’re looking to find affordable, affordable and fun entertainment for the whole family. So it’s a good time – you know, two hours round trip,” Kraft said. “And you can just see some high caliber basketball.”

Jesse Ollivier is a season ticket holder who came to cheer on the team on Monday night. He said it was weird not having a mask on, but he was happy to be back.

“This is exactly where I wanted to be,” said Ollivier. “I always love coming here. It’s a nice little break from everything else in life.”

The fans were welcomed back to the Saskatchewan Rattlers game on Monday. Masks were not mandatory for spectators as Saskatchewan lifted its provincial restrictions on July 11. (Trevor Bothorel / CBC)

Tom Liske, a three-year Rattlers season pass holder, said he had no apprehension about being back at the SaskTel Center. He said even though the Rattlers are zero and seven so far this season, he’s thrilled to be back.

“It’s great, but I feel like we probably shouldn’t be here. I kinda feel like we’re getting away with something and I’m like, ‘Where’s my mask? “But, yeah, it’s a really great feeling and I hope it will last,” Liske said.

He hopes that with the encouragement of “a few fans in the stands” the team “will get some wins now,” he said.

“But it’s absolutely fantastic.”

The Rattlers will then play on Friday July 16 at the SaskTel Center against the Guelph Nighthawks.

Rattlers vice chairman Brad Kraft said seats will be spaced apart for games and masks will be needed for spectators on the floor. (Trevor Bothorel / CBC)