Red means stop for New Brunswick's organized sports teams

·5 min read

It's time-out for sports in red zones of New Brunswick.

According to the province's red phase of recovery, all organized sports have been cancelled and gyms and fitness centres are closed.

For minor hockey players, for example, that means no games, no practices, and no off-ice training, explained Nic Jansen, the executive director of Hockey New Brunswick.

And at this point in the season, Jansen said tournaments are probably not going to happen.

"Yeah, I think that's certainly a possibility," he said. "In the end, I think it'll be a decision that Public Health makes, but I think that's definitely a possibility."

Jansen said Hockey New Brunswick had been waiting on direction from Public Health officials about whether tournaments could resume in yellow. With most of the province now in red, and only a few weeks left in the regular season, it's looking less and less likely, he said.

Submitted by Nic Jansen
Submitted by Nic Jansen

Meanwhile, hockey continues in Zones 5, 6 and 7, under orange restrictions, which means teams can continue to practice together, but there are no games. That's only allowed in the yellow phase.

Jansen encourages young players to stay active and do what they can to keep up their skills.

"I think if you're fortunate enough to have access to a backyard rink, by all means, get out, use it."

In a season that's been unusually mild, backyard rinks and ponds are a little hard to come by, but Jansen said players can continue to work on their skills in their basement or driveway.

"And it doesn't have to be hockey. It can be any type of physical activity. Just get outside and play and enjoy the outdoors," he said.

Basketball

Things have "pretty much shut down everywhere," said Tyler Slipp, Basketball New Brunswick's director of operations.

Red restrictions have meant an end to all basketball activity, and those regions still in orange are operating under strict rules that prohibit games and impose physical distancing restrictions on players. So although players in Zones 5, 6 and 7 can continue to practice together, they have to stay two metres apart.

Slipp said that means no scrimmages and no defensive drills — leaving a lot of shooting and dribbling practice.

He said it's not ideal, especially in a season already hard-hit by COVID restrictions. Since schools haven't allowed outside organizations to use their gyms since the pandemic began, minor basketball leagues across the province had a hard time finding space to run their programs.

Submitted by Tyler Slipp
Submitted by Tyler Slipp

"I'm still just really sad for all the kids that didn't get a chance to play because of the lack of facilities this year," said Slipp.

Last summer, Basketball New Brunswick started working on a project that would help players train on their own through an online program that will launch this Saturday, said Slipp.

It was announced less than two weeks ago and 90 young people have already signed up, he said.

While it was developed to address the historical short-comings identified in New Brunswick's provincial teams, Slipp said the program can help young players continue to work on their individual skills during the pandemic.

He said the Gold Medal Performance Program includes strength and conditioning, nutrition, and sports psychology.

Soccer

While normally thought of as a warmer-weather sport, soccer continues year-round for many elite players, said Younes Bouida, the executive director of Soccer New Brunswick.

But for those in red zones, winter soccer has come to an end.

Bouida said many of the elite programs have switched to online tools to keep teams connected and give players at-home programs to stay active and work on their skills.

Those in orange zones, meanwhile, continue to be able to practice together, although they have to stay two metres away from each other, which is definitely better than the options available to teams in red zones, said Bouida.

School sports and activities

All school sports, including intramural sports, are cancelled in red zones. So, too, are all after-school clubs and activities.

"Masks are required to be worn during physical education and only activities that are conducive to physical distancing, such as yoga, dancing and moderate walking, are permitted in high school and strongly recommended for K-8 students," explained Education Department spokesperson Tara Chislett in an email Wednesday afternoon.

What orange will bring

Under the orange phase of recovery, teams are permitted to practice as a group, but the activities are limited to "skills and drills." Scrimmages are prohibited and players are expected to stay two metres apart at all times.

Gym, fitness facilities, and yoga studios may operate under a COVID-19 operational plan with additional public health measures, including:

  • Two metres of physical distancing, with masks, in low-intensity fitness classes such as yoga, tai chi, and stretching; and three metres of physical distancing for high-intensity activities such as spin, aerobics and boot camp.

  • active screening and record keeping of patrons.

  • closed locker rooms/common areas.

Brittany Spencer/CBC
Brittany Spencer/CBC

Yellow

Sports teams can continue to play, following their operational plan, and tournaments or larger events may be permitted, subject to the approval of a plan.

For most teams in yellow, it was business-almost-as-usual, but with added COVID precautions like screening and proper hand hygiene.

Red

The only activity encouraged in the public health messages is "Exercising alone or with persons in your bubble."

Maritime Junior Hockey League

On Monday, the Maritime Junior Hockey League announced that seven games would be postponed as a result of Zone 4 going into the red phase of recovery. In a press release, the league said the postponed games would affect the Edmundston Blizzard and Grand Falls Rapids.

No further releases have been issued since Zones 1, 2 and 3 went red, but the league's director of communications James Faulkner confirmed by email Wednesday that teams in the orange zones can continue to practice together.

All activity has stopped for those in red, said Faulkner.

National Basketball League of Canada

The National Basketball League of Canada announced in November that it would postpone its season. According to the league's website, the tentative start date is now March 12.

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League

The league announced Monday that it would postpone regular season games "following meetings with government and Public Health officials of the three provinces of the Maritimes Division."

Those in red zones, however, will not be allowed to practice together.