It was sizing up to be the biggest training camp in years for the Cochrane Generals.

That, though, just can't happen with the Alberta Health Services and Hockey Alberta protocol in place for COVID-19.

Now, just 34 skaters, including five goalies, have been invited to participate in the camp that opens Oct. 1 at the Cochrane Arena. 

Kurtis Jones, head coach and GM, says the coaching staff will be required to make some immediate and tough decisions when it comes time to reducing the roster to close to the 25 players they're allowed to carry.

Competition for a spot on the roster is expected to be high. A scouting team has been recruited to assess the players.

"We'll try to keep as many players as we can from returning years, but there are a lot of recruits coming in that are high-end players, too. We'll have to see. It's been really stressful for the coaching staff."

Cohort rules has also left many players carefully assessing where to tryout.  Those not making the team will have to sit out for 14 days before seeking another team. Jones believes that could mean they'll miss out on some potential players.

Additionally, COVID-19 has forced many junior teams to institute high fees for those who do lace-up. 

"Everybody wants to play hockey and the only way to play is if the player can pay that amount. There's a lot of junior 'A' players not returning to Junior 'A' because of the price, and I feel bad for them."

The Gens have been attempting to keep their fees the same and they're sponsorship team has been working hard to keep it that way. 

"We owe it to the guys returning from last year to have a season. There are so many kids this year that won't be able to play hockey because of how the rules work. Junior 'A' rules, cohort rules, the 14 days in between... like it's tough, it's really, really tough."

Only two players from last year's roster won't be in camp. Both defenceman Justin Berube and forward Takuro Okada have opted out. Both played two seasons with the Gens.

The Gens will open their exhibition season at home against the Okotoks Bisons on Oct. 31. They'll play the next day in Okotoks. A third game is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 3, also in Okotoks.

The teams will only be able to carry 20 players on the bench for the exhibition series, with no substitutes. If a player is injured or suspended, the bench will be shortened.

A maximum of 100 spectators are allowed in the stands, and efforts are being made to live stream games for those fans who can't attend.

Heritage Junior Hockey League officials continue to finetune its plans and currently intend to start the regular season in January.