As the fall approaches, ordinarily bringing with it the start of the hockey season, hockey organizations around the country are in a “wait and see situation,” regarding what the return will look like amid the ever-changing COVID-19 situation, according to Trevor Woynarski, president and referee-in-chief with the Kimberley Minor Hockey Association.
Woynarski said that the Association is following the protocols set in place by viaSport and BC Hockey regarding a return to hockey.
“Once we get to a certain phase we will be allowed to get rolling, but it’s too early to tell when that will be at this point,” Woynarski said in an email to the Bulletin.
Carson Loftsgard, who along with Jeff Keiver and Carter Banks, co-owns and instructs with Alpine Hockey, is also on the board of Kimberley Minor Hockey with Woyarski, and said he represented the situation “100 per cent accurately.”
“The city recently informed ice users that they have a set of protocols to follow, so when the rink does open, we’ll follow those protocols, but we don’t know exactly when that’s going to be,” Loftsfard said. “The city has a tentative opening for the arena, so that’s the green light day as far as we know but we have to be within those protocols.”
Loftsgard added Alpine Hockey is really disappointed they aren’t able to run their hockey school and training camp this year.
“The camp’s been running every year for 40 years as far as we know, there’s been some of the biggest names in hockey in the area have run this camp and we’re just this iteration of it,” he said, “so we were really looking forward to that
“But again, safety is our number-one priority of course. If the city and the province through viaSport say that these are the rules then we are going to go by those rules, so while we’re super disappointed we’re not able to do this this year, safety is still going to trump all that other stuff.”
The vision of viaSport, according to their website, is “is a society where people and communities are truly healthy, vibrant and connected because they value and participate in sport experiences that are safe, inclusive and meaningful.”
The organization was asked by the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Lisa Beare, to develop a Return To Sport Guidelines document (RTS Guidelines), in order to support the provincial amateur sport sector in the province ahead of the restarting plan.
The RTS document can be read in full here. All provincial sporting organizations are asked to use this document to develop their own individual sport-specific return to sport plans as they work towards recommencing within their communities.
The Provincial Health Officer asked that the RTS Guidelines cover three things: processes to open safely, measures to keep people safe to avoid further outbreaks, and a plan in the event that a case or an outbreak should occur.
“In this process, one size does not fit all,” the document states. “Each sport has unique issues which need to be factored into their own Return to Sport Plan.”
While there is room for flexibility with respect to the way in which sport organizations develop their own return to sport plans, all sporting activities in the province are required to operate within current provincial health restrictions.
According to viaSport, each individual organization’s Return To Sport Plan must include clear policies to ensure the following three things:
•No one with symptoms comes to work or to the sport activity, and staff are able to be off sick or work at home to enable self-isolation for ten days (at minimum)
•Employees have fewer workplace contacts (shorter times, fewer people), through such measures as staggered shifts, smaller teams, occupancy limits, virtual meetings, continuing to work from home
Kimberley Minor Hockey is still currently accepting registrations on their website, and said in their email to the Bulletin that Hockey Canada has put forth numerous ideas about how they can get going and enjoy hockey as safely as possible.
Additionally, viaSport mandates that each plan be based on an assessment of the risks present in each organization’s specific operation.
“We are still unsure how many players will be on the ice at a time, how many players will be allowed on a team, if there will be body contact or not, among other things. I believe this will take a little more time to decide, but once it happens we will see things happening quite quickly.”
viaSport’s document outlines the important role that sports and physical activity play in society; physically, psychologically, emotionally, socially and economically. However, as society is still working to contain the COVID-19 pandemic and develop a vaccine, strict protocols will need to be put in place.
In their document, the organization goes in-depth on what some of those protocols will look like; for staff and volunteers, participant groups, facility access, use and cleaning, and equipment.
Parents or guardians of participants in sports will be required to sign an agreement to abide by several points when entering club facilities or participating in club activities.
This includes agreeing to perform symptom checks, agreeing to stay home if feeling sick and to remain home for 14 days if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
The organization has a sport activity chart in their RTS document. It shows that the period of strictest controls, prior to May 19, has ended and we are currently in a transitional measures phase, running from May 19 to approximately September. This indicates that outdoor sport is safest, contact sport should not occur and limited or no spectators are permitted.
After September, viaSport, and therefore all other minor sporting organizations, should have a better idea of what moving into the progressively loosened phase will look like and when it can happen.
Loftsgard said Alpine Hockey is trying to see if they can offer something for the players they normally work with in lieu of a traditional hockey camp, but nothing is concrete at the moment.
“We’ll put our program up against any other program in the province for sure, the quality of the instruction on the work that we do on competing and hockey IQ and all that stuff, it’s a real benefit for players right before the season if we’re able to work with them,” Loftsfard said. “So, yeah we’re working at it if that’s possible. we’re trying to get organized to be able to offer something to kids before their tryouts start. Nothing is solid right now, as we just don’t have control over all of that but we’re working at it.”
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