Most minor hockey players in Belle River are lacing up for the first time since the pandemic hit, but while the ice rinks are primed and ready, sports retailers are scrambling to get more hockey equipment on their shelves.
The doors at Belle River Source For Sports opened in July after COVID-19 restrictions were eased. Young hockey players came in droves, according to the owner, desperate for new gear.
"Our hockey has been very busy this last month. Everybody is checking their bags and finding they've outgrown their gear," said David Bellaire, owner of Belle River Source For Sports.
Bellaire said hockey sales are double what they usually are for this time of year. But trying to bring in more equipment to meet the demand has been difficult.
"It's a challenge, suppliers haven't been able to keep up with demand. Everybody knew this was going to happen but there are also shipping challenges," he said.
One shipment of custom hockey pants arrived five months after Bellaire ordered them. He said that is two months longer than usual.
While it might be a bit more difficult to find gear, the local minor league is reporting a lot of room for enrolment.
Paul Gray, president of the Belle River District Minor Hockey Association, said that by the end of July, the league typically has 600 players enrolled, but right now only 300 have registered.
"We as a board were surprised. We'd normally expect to see higher numbers at this time of year," he said.
The league is going to advertising on social media and billboards to try and attract more players. It has extended registration by another month, until Aug. 31.