The GNWT released its updated Emerging Wisely document June 9, outlining how the territory will open up over the next few months.
When it comes to sports, it couldn’t come fast enough for some groups and the prevailing opinion is one of optimism sprinkled with some joy.
Under the new plan, both indoor and outdoor gatherings will be able to have a cap of 200 people without the need to apply for an exemption from the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer (OCPHO). Physical distancing is still recommended, as are masks if distancing can’t be done. For outdoor gatherings, the new number took effect as of June 9 with the indoor gathering increase expected to happen after the end of the school year.
Any gathering over 200 must get an exemption from the OCPHO before proceeding.
Brad Anstey, president of the Yk Minor Hockey Association, was one person who was rather enthused upon hearing the new numbers.
He said he hopes this will hopefully bring things back to something resembling proper hockey.
“I don’t know all the details as of yet but it looks like we’ll be able to get back to regular programming,” he said. “That’s two full teams on the ice, normal games between two teams and fans in the stands. It’s good for everyone because we’ve missed being able to be together and if I’m being honest, it’s been too long in coming.”
Minor hockey was run under a skills-and-drills format for much of the season. There was a playoff tournament at the end of the season to determine divisional champions with 50 people allowed inside each rink at the Multiplex.
“We’ve had a lot of people sacrifice and a lot of people did a lot of work to get us through the worst part of this whole pandemic,” said Anstey. “We’ve been responsible and now it’s time to look forward to something good.”
In addition to hopefully returning to league play, Anstey said the increase in numbers will go a long way toward working on long-term player development, something which went by the wayside this past season.
“Games are fun to play but I’m a believer that if you can skate, you can play,” he said. “We’ll be able to start planning on having camps and development sessions so we can work on making the kids better going through the system. We want the kids to love playing hockey and we want them to learn and get good at it.”
Golf is another sport that will benefit from the increase and it’s a plus on more than one front.
Shaun Morris, president of the Yellowknife Golf Club, said the outdoor limit will be a boost for tournaments, especially ones for charity.
“Right now, we don’t really have any sort of celebrations after tournaments because we have limited capacity,” he said. “At least we can start planning now for having dinners or barbecues or something for the players who want to stick around and enjoy the rest of the day.”
The other big bonus? Shotgun starts can resume, he added, where players tee off from a pre-determined hole around the golf course instead of playing the holes in order from Number One.
The 19th Hole, the clubhouse on the club grounds, is open again for food and drink but right now, the capacity is 70 for the entire area with distancing in place. The normal capacity is 130 and that could be a possibility if things line up.
“If we’re allowed to do so, we’ll go full bore and open it right up,” said Morris.
Yellowknife Slopitch reacted to the news with guarded excitement on behalf of its president, Rebekah Clarke.
Clarke said the big thing for slopitch would be the opportunity for more families to come and watch.
“We have a very large membership, one of the largest in the NWT, and so having the ability to get more people out would make it easy to facilitate that,” she said. “A lot of families like to come out and the increased capacity would allow them to do that.”
What the outdoor gathering increase also does is bring back the possibility of a beverage garden for tournaments, something which has been put on the back burner since the start of the pandemic.
“It’s nice to know that we could possibly have one,” she said.