COVID-19 and minor hockey
Safety protocols mean no parents in arena
With an unprecedented level of public health concern surrounding the upcoming minor hockey season, the Aylmer Minor Hockey Association’s (AHMA) President Daniel Dupuis hopes players, coaches and parents will understand that this year will be like no other. “We’re going to need to be patient,” Dupuis said. “Rules are about respecting the guidelines given and being extremely patient.” Tasked with the implementation of COVID-19 safety protocols from the Quebec Government, consistency adhering to them and responsibility for safety, Dupuis admitted that preparation for the season has been challenging.
--COVID contact person for each team
Teams will need to have a COVID-19 representative responsible for monitoring people’s symptoms and someone in charge of registering everyone each time they enter the arena, and ensuring that the number of people inside does not exceed the maximum of 50. “With all the players, the coaches, the referees, the arena employees and executive committee members, there won’t be parents allowed inside for now,” Dupuis said.
Hockey Outaouais’ President Pierre Montreuil told the Aylmer Bulletin that arenas with capacities of 1,000 people will allow 200 people inside. Barring the players on the ice, everyone involved will need to wear masks and facilities will be thoroughly cleaned on a regular basis. Players will be required to ‘physical distance’ in dressing rooms, which can be more of a challenge depending on the size of the room, Montreuil said.
Teams will also be provided bottles of hand sanitizer by Hockey Outaouais, adding that arenas will have one-way entrances and exits. Only two coaches will be allowed on the bench.
In the last few years, the AHMA has seen approximately 1,200 annual registrations. On August 14, Dupuis said the number stood at around 800, noting that it will cap out at 900 registrations for the first time in many years. “Some aren’t signing up,” Dupuis said, “which is totally understandable. It’s the same situation as if you’re going to school. There are parents hesitating because of COVID.”
For Dupuis, the most important aspect of all is that kids will have an opportunity to get back on the ice with their friends for the first time in what has felt like an eternity.
If someone ends up getting infected, a team’s COVID-19 monitor should have all the names and contact information of people who were in the arena at the same time, Dupuis said, adding that Services Canada will follow up on the matter.
Currently in phase five of Hockey Quebec’s back to play plan, interregional tournaments will not take place this year, and teams will be limited to regular season play within their respective regions.
“We will be able to play against Gatineau,” Dupuis said. “We will be able to play against Hull.”
Still awaiting an official master schedule for the upcoming season, Dupuis expects things to begin in late September for double-letter levels and in early October for single letter levels. With no conditioning camps this month, double letter tryouts should begin by September 8, noting that groups and schedules will be posted a week prior.
For phase five, teams will consist of eight players and a goaltender playing four on four hockey, which should chew up a considerable chunk of the association’s available ice time, Dupuis said.
“Last year, we had around 60 teams,” Dupuis said. “This year, we basically have to do that times two. So, we’re going to need a lot of volunteers.”
If the Quebec Government permits Hockey Quebec to graduate to phase six, two teams will unify to form single teams of 16 players and two netminders playing five on five hockey. With still plenty of uncertainty around the virus, Montreuil said associations will form schedules on a monthly basis, in case the provincial government decides to shut things down or move to phase six.
Competitive hockey will take place. However, the rules will likely be the same as in the single letter levels, noting that hitting will be illegal and that teams will also only play within their regions. While there will still be a handful of regional tournaments in which local teams can participate, Dupuis said Aylmer’s Bantam-Midget and MAHG en Fête tournaments have been cancelled. With 23 tournaments taking place in the region last year, Montreuil said the number has dwindled down to six this year, which are all regional tournaments.
Following the city’s decision to dedicate the Robert-Guertin Centre as a homeless shelter for the next 12 months, Dupuis said the association will be losing at least 30 hours of ice time this year, on top of those lost with the closure of Campeau Arena in Gatineau.
Despite that, the AHMA’s President wasn’t quick to blame the city, noting that municipal officials have a litany of difficult decision to make. “We’ve never really practiced for a situation like this,” Dupuis said. “Nobody’s going to be happy with the schedule. It is what it is.”
Due to a lack of available hours, the AHMA will shut down its registration on September 4 because there won’t be enough ice time to accommodate all the players if registration numbers reach a certain limit, Dupuis said.