COCHRANE – Despite the uncertainty posed from the COVID-19 pandemic, minor and major league organizations around the country, and right here at home, are gearing up for a season of hockey.
What that season will look like, however, is still uncertain.
“From what we understand we could be entering into Stage Three from the province, here relatively imminently. So we have held off on deciding if we’re going to go with a socially distanced program or a cohort program,” said Pierre Landry, President of Cochrane Minor Hockey.
On June 30, a day before sports leagues in the province got the go-ahead to play inter-cohort games, Hockey Alberta released its “Return to Hockey” plan, which provides the “framework and minimum standards” that will allow it to return hockey activities this coming season.
The current guidelines Cochrane Minor Hockey is working with incorporate the current requirements outlined in Stage Two of the Government of Alberta’s relaunch plan, as well as health and safety guidelines provided by Hockey Canada.
The document on Hockey Alberta’s website says, “the health and safety of all participants in the sport are of paramount importance in all activities outlined in the Return to Hockey Plan. The threats and challenges posed by COVID-19 require specific steps to be taken to allow hockey back on the ice, and this plan addresses those requirements.”
The plan includes three parts: off-season skill development, development season, and the regular season.
The document is comprised of 13-parts, covering the safety guidelines, roles, and responsibilities of individuals in organizations, COVID-19 case reporting procedures, and much more.
Not only does the COVID-19 pandemic pose many questions around the safety of the athletes and staff involved with Cochrane Minor Hockey, but the leadership of the organization also had to consider a potential dip in participants.
“As a board, we identified that as a big risk. When we were building our budget we weren’t sure if we were going to see a 20 per cent drop off in registrations this year, be it from safety concerns or parents not being sure what kind of program we were going to be able to offer.”
Despite those possibilities, Landry said that the registration numbers are right where they would be on a normal year. “We’re bordering on full,” he said.
Landry said that he personally hopes for a return to “hockey as we know it,” but noted that his personal feelings on the matter are not what will guide his and the board's decision making through this process.
“As president, I came on and I vowed three things to our membership, and those were safe, fun, and fair. At the top of that list is safe,” he said. “As far as the on-ice product goes, that’s kind of secondary at this point. What I want is for our kids to have a safe place to come and play. Whatever that looks like as far as the on-ice product goes, and my personal opinion, that’s secondary for the time being. First and foremost is safety.”
The Alberta Government is expected to make an announcement on Wednesday (July 15) about whether or not the province is ready to enter Stage Three of the reopening plan.