Hockey season is ramping up in the southeast with the start of a new Big Six Hockey League season this weekend.

The new campaign begins Saturday night in Bienfait when the Coalers host the defending champion Carnduff Red Devils.

League president Ryan Toms says he's excited for the new year to get going, especially with pandemic restrictions in the rear view mirror.

"I'm looking forward to it. I think all the teams will have all their players now that there's no COVID rules in there. I think last year probably every team was maybe missing a guy or two," Toms said. "So every team should have their full rosters, and the rinks should be full again and all that stuff."

The league has expanded this year with the addition of Arcola/Kisbey and Kipling. There are now 11 teams in total.

Toms said the defending champion Red Devils should be a front runner again this year.

"I think Carnduff will be very strong again as they usually are...I think Redvers will be as well," Toms said, referring to the Rockets who were beaten by Carnduff in the finals last spring. "Moosomin I think will be very strong. Oxbow I heard will have a very full roster and be pretty competitive because I heard they had to make some cuts. I think those would be probably the stronger teams that I've heard about."

Toms also commented about what the league means to the southeast corner of the province.

"Every town likes to see their team do well," he said. "As you get closer to the finals, everybody's obviously a lot more passionate. There's a lot of community pride, and sometimes it means probably more to the fans than it does to the players to see a championship won in their rink or hanging a banner in their rink."