Curling in Hay River will start at about its normal time this fall.
That’s after the Hay River Curling Club received approval from the GNWT on Sept. 26 for its plan to resume modified play in light of Covid-19.
“We’re hoping to get underway by the last week of October or the first week of November. That’s when curling usually starts,” said Davida Delorey, who was club president when she spoke to The Hub last week, adding there will be no delay because of Covid-19.
The Hay River Curling Club had an annual general meeting set for Oct. 6, and Delorey did not plan to run again to return as president.
She said the executive was preparing the back-to-play plan for about a month.
In particular, she worked on a plan for adult curlers and Emilie Lemonde-Hinse, the junior curling co-ordinator, worked on a separate plan for young curlers.
Delorey listed a number of changes for adult curling under the plan, which has been approved by Dr. Kami Kandola, the GNWT’s chief public health officer.
The plan calls for physical distancing; no contact between players, such as no shaking of hands before or after games; no bringing out other players’ curling rocks; no socializing; and disinfecting all high-touch areas.
The change rooms will not be used at all this year, said Delorey. “So curlers are going to have to come ready to curl, except for their curling shoes.”
They will also have to bring their own equipment and water bottles.
The club also has to provide information to curlers on Covid-19 and install signage and visual markers on the ice and floor about where people can stand for physical distancing.
“And of course we have to screen before each game or before practice,” said Delorey, explaining that will include a questionnaire on whether a person has symptoms of Covid-19 and ensuring that nobody is curling who is in self-isolation.
Other aspects of the plan include a maximum of eight players per game, two games at one time with one vacant sheet, controlled traffic direction flows throughout the icehouse where possible, and use of nonmedical masks when off the ice.
“The curling club is going to provide facemasks,” said Delorey. “Most people now have their own.”
She believes the changes will have some impact on the games themselves.
For example, she said the new rules will impact sweeping to a degree and where the skips are allowed to stand for physical distancing.
“They can’t each be in the house,” she said. “One is going to have to be behind the house. So it’s going to impact the game, yes, a little bit.”
The clubroom/lounge will not be reopening as part of the return-to-play plan.
“We do plan on putting a proposal together for the clubhouse or the lounge at some point,” said Delorey. “It’s being worked on, but our first priority was just to get curling itself.”
The Town of Hay River is aiming to have ice on the arena and curling rink by Oct. 13.
Delorey thinks a return to curling and other ice sports will be good for the community.
“I mean the winters are long here and to be able to curl, to play hockey, to be able to have figure skating, any of the sports that are in the arena is a step in the right direction, I think,” she said. “It certainly helps with physical and mental aspects of our health.”
Lemonde-Hinse explained that junior curling is for anyone under 17 years of age and it required its own plan.
“Because they’re run differently, it needed to be separate just because the kids’ program is more like a learning environment, and we do drills and practices and things like that, versus adults who just kind of go play a game and they’re done,” she said.
Lemonde-Hinse said there are going to be a lot more rules about how many young curlers can be on the ice and how many coaches can be there.
“We actually need more coaches this year to ensure proper distancing between kids, and then there’s going to be less kids, so I guess a higher adult-to-kid ratio,” she said.
Lemonde-Hinse noted that last year there would be eight to 12 young curlers per sheet of ice.
“Now we’re limited to only two sheets and only six kids per sheet,” she said. “So it’s dropped our numbers quite a bit. So I’ve had to kind of re-imagine the junior curling program and hopefully offer more times and more programs to accommodate for that limit.”
The junior curling co-ordinator noted that the playing rules are pretty much the same for adults and younger curlers.
Lemonde-Hinse is happy curling is returning.
“Last year was my first year coaching and I loved it,” she said. “I was going to be really bummed out if I couldn’t do it this year if it was not going to be an option. But I’m super excited, and I think the kids are excited to get back to somewhat of normalcy.”