Businesses have been preparing to open back up after the lockdown, but for minor hockey associations, they are still waiting to see what will become of the rest of their season.
Fort Frances Girls and Women’s Hockey Association president, Craig Miller, said they are still figuring out their return to play protocol. Miller said they are awaiting a response from the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association (OWHA) on whether they will be able to return to the ice.
Miller said they are hoping to start the season either today or tomorrow.
“We shut down at Christmas break and we haven’t had anything scheduled since the week of Dec. 14,” Miller said.
Before their break and subsequent provincial lockdown, Miller said they were playing hockey under modified rules as directed by the OWHA.
Miller said they played games of four on four and players had to come to the arena fully dressed, and screened for the virus before entry. There was also limited seating available for spectators. Miller added that women’s hockey is already non-contact and therefore was not an issue in terms of the provincial orders to remove contact from the game.
Miller said since they are not allowed to travel or play outside of the association, they have made 10 teams out of the six age divisions all the way from U7 through U18, in order to continue playing hockey.
“I think the main thing is giving the girls an outlet for some physical activity and to get together with their friends,” Miller said. “The kids have been hit really hard this year so for them to be able to go and do activities like this is really important if we can provide them those outlets.”
Miller said that there was a mixed response to the season. Some were disappointed that there were no tournaments and are not able to play traditional hockey but most are grateful to just be able to get on the ice, he added.
Miller said that if they get the green light to go ahead with the season, protocols will be the same as before the lockdown.
Terry Martin, Emo Devlin Barwick Minor Hockey president, said they have also had to find creative ways to keep the season going prior to lockdown.
Martin said they combined boys and girls hockey teams this year to keep the players, families, coaches and officials safe. Martin added that the decision to bring the teams together has yielded great results. They have five divisions from U7 to U15 with the hopes of having U18 back next year.
Martin said they have also thrown in a little bit of a mix this year with three on three and five on five games every week to keep players interested since there are no tournaments and no out of town games.
“One game they could have three on three the next week they come on in or the game could be five on five, just something a little bit different to keep them interested in the sport,” Martin said.
Martin said they have been preparing to get back on the ice and hope that if they do, to add another six weeks to the season up until April 1, which would include playoffs. Martin said they are waiting to hear what Hockey Northwestern Ontario says.
“We have to get them back on ice and doing something just for their own well-being mentally and physically,” Martin said. “We have continued on our push with fundraising this year in hopes to get back on the ice and build for next year as well. It would be great to see them back on the ice next week or the week after depending on the provincial government.”
Martin said the Township of Emo has idled down the ice plant for the last few weeks but are on board to fire it back up if they get the go ahead to continue the season.
They are looking at following the same restrictions they had in place before the lockdown, Martin said. He adds that everyone was following protocols which has kept everyone safe.
Martin said the community has been fantastic when it comes to fundraising and they have a few planned with one coming up at the end of February and another in the middle of March.
Natali Trivuncic, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort Frances Times