It took a few little while to iron out all the details, but Inuvik Minor Hockey is back in action and making sure anyone who wants to play gets some ice time.
Athletes began their inaugural skate of the season Oct. 17 at the Midnight Sun Complex (MSC.)
“Recreation and physical activity are an important aspect of not only our physical but also our mental and emotional well being,” said Inuvik Minor Hockey Association (IMHA) president Caroline Hunter. “This is why we felt that it was important to find a way to provide a safe opportunity for our youth to remain active.
“It was difficult to see the smiles off the ice as they were covered by masks but there was definitely smiles and enthusiasm on the ice.”
Hunter said different hockey programs around the territory each submitted their own plans, which may have slowed down the Office of Chief Public Health Officer. But IMHA submitted their own proposal on Sept. 10, then passed the plan back and forth with the GNWT until it was finally approved Oct. 1 under a territory-wide policy.
Hunter noted having a unified social distancing policy would open the potential for teams to travel around the territory for tournaments.
“They decided they were going to wait until they got all the hockey plans and develop one approval that was consistent through the Northwest Territories,” said Hunter. “What was returned to us was a blanket plan that was given to the other hockey organizations as well.
“The Town of Inuvik has been super-accommodating and have worked really hard with our organization to ensure the kids get back on the ice. They’ve been fabulous.”
Things will look a bit different this year, however. To ensure no cross-contamination occurs between the arena and the rest of the MSC — including the Inuvik Curling Centre — the only entrance to the arena will be the locker-room side entrance. Access to the rest of the building will be restricted.
Athletes are asked to come as dressed as they are able to, because teams will be staggered on who gets to use the locker room to change so staff can sanitize the room for the next group. Teams that pull the short straw will have to change in the arena itself.
Masks will be required while off the ice. To keep the on-ice numbers within the 25-person limit, teams will be limited to one coach each and there will only be the one referee on the ice.
“We are limited to 25 in each area — so we can have a maximum of 25 on the ice and a maximum of 25 people in the stands,” said Hunter. “All our spectators will have to wear masks.”
Probably the biggest change will be for the audience, which is also limited to 25 people maximum. Designated seats will be set up in the bleachers and only one parent per player is allowed to watch practices and games.
Hunter said IMHA was doing its best to make sure anyone who wanted to play was able to get sufficient ice time, which actually reduced the amount of ice time currently booked so they have some in reserve if they get greater than anticipated interest.
“People need to come dressed and ready to play hockey, so you’re essentially just putting on helmets, gloves and skates,” she said. “There also be a limited time — there’s a 15-minute window once you get off the ice to change and get out of the arena.
“Our goal in minor hockey was to ensure we could accommodate as many kids as possible. It’s a little less ice-time than last year, and our fees went down to reflect that, but we still have our six divisions that we always have and some of them are quite full and we might have to do a bit of juggling. But everyone is getting two hours of ice-time minimum.”