Right now, Cochrane hockey player Caleb Willms is in quarantine, like all Alberta WHL players, and is just a day away from reporting to the Medicine Hat Tigers.

Willms has been here in self-quarantine since Jan. 30. Saturday, Feb. 6, he reports to his club, where he'll be required to undergo COVID-19 testing upon arrival. An additional quarantine period follows.

On Feb. 12, pre-season on-ice training opens.

In a year when it wasn't certain they'd be a season, he kept training in hopes it would happen.

"It's been almost a full year since we've played a game, so it's definitely a big weight lifted off my shoulders that we finally do have a start date. I'm really excited to get going again."

Alberta's WHL teams have received the go-ahead to launch their season on Feb. 26. The Tigers will play a shortened 24-game series between the other four Alberta WHL teams in Calgary, Edmonton, Red Deer, and Lethbridge.

"It's definitely a unique situation, and we have a really strong division in Alberta, so it will be really fun having that competition every game," says Willms.

The Tigers were on a roll before the 2019-20 season was shut down by COVID-19.

"Last year, we have a really strong team, and I think we could have gone really far in the playoffs. It was fun to be part of that team and that atmosphere of how much everyone pushed, how everyone wanted to win, and how much of a winning culture we had."

The forward's first goal was especially memorable.

"My favourite moment was probably scoring my first goal against Regina. That ended up being the highlight of the night, so that was a pretty cool experience to have for the first one."

He went on to score three other goals and assists on six others in 34 appearances. He finished the season with a +4 rating.

This season he believes the team will have that same desire to win.

"Teamwise, we want to win. There may not be playoffs, but we want to finish first in our division."

He's been working hard in the extended off-season, including spending a little time at P3 Sports when it was allowed.

"I want to make a big push to have a bigger role on the team, so I've been training quite a bit on the very long off-season."

It's yet to be seen who they'll match up against in their opening game. He wouldn't mind if it being their arch-rivals, the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

"We always played them in their home opener and they played us in our home opener. It gets pretty rowdy. They're the best games to play in."

Willm, now 18, was playing for the Airdrie CFR Bisons when he was drafted by the Tigers. He was signed in August 2018 and got a taste of the WHL for three games during the 2018-19 season. 

"I love being with the Tigers. It's an unbelievable organization and they have unbelievable fans to support us."