When fall rolls around in Canada, that means kids heading to the rink to start hockey.
While the on-ice action during practices and games will look similar, the off-ice chatter will look a lot different.
The biggest difference is players are asked to dress as much as possible at home before heading to the rink.
The communications officer for the Quesnel and District Minor Hockey Association (QDMHA), Carlos Gonzalez, said expectations for how much players will prepare will vary depending on age.
“If a kid can come as dressed as possible, with just skates and a helmet to put on, that eliminates the need for the kid to go into the dressing room,” he said. “We know dressing rooms are quite small, and having 12 or 14 kids in a dressing room does not meet the requirements for physical distancing.”
For younger players, there will be chairs close to the ice for parents to tie skates.
The QDMHA is also asking only one parent spectates practices or games, and each person that enters a rink will have to answer a COVID-19 symptom questionnaire before entering. Gonzalez said the QDMHA was considering temperature checks before entering arenas, but that was still up in the air.
“It wasn’t just a five-minute decision,” he said on the return-to-play document. “The safety of the kids is paramount, as well as coaches, volunteers and parents.”
On-ice practices have been tweaked as well. Only 24 skaters and two goalies are allowed on the ice at a time, and those players must be split in two. Each group is only allowed two coaches.
Gonzalez said earlier restrictions would have only allowed 12 players on the ice at a time.
“Twelve kids [was] definitely not going to work,” he said. “Having 12 or any number below that puts significant stress on the number of teams that you need and the ability to properly run hockey training portions.”
Physical distancing will also be on benches.
Hockey begins on Monday, Sept. 14, with the first rep team tryouts at “Quesnel Arena 2” (Quesnel Arena).
“Rink 2 is just too small to have the normal amount of parents that would be there watching,” Gonzalez said. “We know its a challenge, but it’s the lesser of two evils. Better to have the kids participate in these tryouts, but the downside is parents won’t be able to watch as they could at the West Fraser Centre.”
The West Fraser Centre will open one week later on Sept. 21.
While no games between communities is allowed in the current phase of the return-to- play plans, games between Quesnel teams are allowed.
“[The QDMHA] appeals to parents and players to follow the indications from the City and QDMHA,” Gonzales said. “If we all follow the rules, then we’ll have a successful season.”