EDMONTON -- The coaches of the University of Alberta's hockey teams say they're excited at the potential of returning to the rink for a new season.

"It was nice to be able to give some positive information for a change...It’s a flicker of light at the end of the tunnel. Right? Like there’s still a lot that can happen," said Pandas head coach Howie Draper.

Yesterday, the Canada West Conference announced the school's hockey teams were being permitted to play in the upcoming season. Pending public health conditions, players could be back on the ice by January. 

The school had announced it would be sitting out any upcoming season across a number of sports due to financial constraints. 

But, new financial support from at least one anonymous donor has potentially saved the hockey teams' seasons.

It's still not known who the anonymous donor is, even to Draper. 

"I wish I did know," he said. "Because then I’d be on my way to their house thanking them right now."

Draper says he expects the balance of the roster to return for the shortened season. 

"Some still weren’t sure where they were going to be at, but the possibility of playing a season now makes things a little bit easier for them."

Golden Bears coach Ian Herbers also looks to be returning a nearly full roster, though men's players in their fifth, and final, year of eligibility might elect to turn pro. 

"With it now just being potentially a half season, these guys are all done a Christmas time and the courses are online, so technically guys could go over to Europe and play and finish, graduate while they’re overseas playing," Herbers said. 

The U of A had missed the Canada West's June 30 deadline to declare which, if any, of its teams would be participating. 

On Thursday, the conference granted the Golden Bears and Pandas an exemption, citing the realities of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

"Our Canada West Board understands that we are not dealing with business as usual, and that flexibility is required to ensure we do everything possible to allow our members to navigate these uncertain times," said Clint Hamilton, Canada West president. 

Canada West says it's hopeful of beginning its eight-team regular season in January, with a decision on scheduling to be made by Oct. 8. 

Herbers is hopeful the abbreviated season can happen.

"There’s nothing like playing league games and then playoff games and hopefully national games."