Last season, the Yk Rec Hockey League kicked things off with 25 people allowed to play. It made for short benches, interesting shifts and the loss of a couple of teams because of the rules.
This season is a bit different, thanks to the rules the league has been given, and some of the players are appreciative of the chance to play hockey.
The league raised the curtain on its new season at the Multiplex on Saturday evening as the Weaver and Devore Marauders took on Sutherland’s, a team which has been around for a while but with a new name. Sutherland’s got off on the right foot with an 8-3 win.
For Brad Mueller, Sutherland’s captain, it was a sigh of relief to return to play.
“We’ve all been dying to get a chance to play again,” he said. “The big thing for us was seeing some of the guys you haven’t seen in a while and it was rough going but just great to get back out and play again.”
The league is operating with an exemption from the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer (OCPHO), which allows for up to 50 people in a rink at one time, provided people can show proof of vaccination from Covid-19.
Charles Wyman, the league’s president, said it’s so far, so good following the opening weekend of play.
“We’ve viewed all league members’ vaccination passports in advance of this season (so) this should not be an issue,” he said. “The opening weekend (was) successful, teams have been following the guidelines and I expect this to continue.”
Ryan Nichols, who captains Weaver and Devore, said having plenty of players on the ice as opposed to a limited roster is much more agreeable.
“It’s good to have a full roster,” he said. “It’s no fun playing with just six or seven guys out there or whatever number. I think we’re all just excited to be back.”
As with any new season, there are times when you wonder if it was worth getting back out there and Nichols admitted that he was feeling it the next day.
“I was sore the next morning, that’s for sure,” he said. “That’s all those muscles getting back into shape after not playing for a while. It’ll take a few games to get back into shape and I think that’s the case for a lot of the guys.”
The reason for the aches? No pre-season skates beforehand, added Nichols.
“Teams usually get in one or two practices before things start but once the (gathering limit) exemption came in, we just got right back out,” he said.
Mueller agreed with that sentiment.
“It was the first time out there for a lot of us (this season) and some of us were in survival mode as the game went on,” he said with a laugh. “It was just satisfying more than anything and I’m sure we’ll all be back in shape the more we play.”
As for the rules in place, Mueller said they’re there for a reason and the players will abide by them.
“They’re in place so we can play and we have to do our part,” he said.
Wyman said so long as there are no more Covid outbreak-related stoppages, there should be a full season. Nichols said he hopes that would lead to the Canadian North Rec Hockey Tournament being played, something that hasn’t happened in the past two years.
“Even if it’s something where we have to keep it local, I’m sure the guys would go for it but we’ll see where we are by then,” he said. “I just hope we keep on playing.”