People watching hockey in the stands at the Multiplex this season has consisted of either one parent watching their child during practice or, in the case of the Yk Oldtimers Hockey League Wrap-Up Tournament this past weekend, up to 25 at one time.
But the Yk Minor Hockey Association’s allotment for this coming weekend is a number not seen during the start of the pandemic.
The association will be hosting its final sessions this coming weekend at the Multiplex and the green light has been given to have up to 60 people watching from the bleachers in each of the Shorty Brown Arena and Ed Jeske Olympic Arena. The limit for people at ice level remains at 37, which includes up to 16 players per side, one goalie per side, a coach for each side and one timekeeper if necessary.
Kyle Kugler, Hockey North’s executive director, put together the request for an increase in warm bodies in the stands and said it was a quick turnaround when the request was put in.
“I wanted to see if we could get the extra people because it is the last official weekend for minor hockey in Yellowknife,” he said. “I submitted it (to the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer, CPHO) and got an almost immediate response telling me it was good to go.”
Kugler said he then followed up with the city, which agreed to the increase.
“It’s still up to the city at the end of the day because they operate the building but they were quick to offer support,” he said.
The entire season for the association has consisted of practices and scrimmages at both the Multiplex and Yk Community Arena; no official games have been played either at the house league or development levels.
Brad Anstey, the association’s president, said the most positive thing to come out of the increase is more people being able to see loved ones.
“I’m excited to see it and I know a lot of people will be excited to know that more can come,” he said. “The kids can look up into the stands and see family members and they’ve missed that all year so those kids will be excited.”
The increase is for Yellowknife only as other communities, such as Hay River, Inuvik and Fort Smith have all wrapped up their minor hockey programs for the season.
Kugler said the territory has been lucky to be able to have a full season of ice time, unlike other parts of the country that have been off the ice almost entirely since late October or early November.
“Anything from Quebec and west of that haven’t been playing or doing anything from around Halloween on,” he said. “We’ve never had a pause at any point this season and the numbers put out by the CPHO meant we could do something close to regular programming.”
Anstey agreed with that sentiment, hoping that the trend continues upward.
“It’s sad to see hockey end for another season but it’s great that so many people will be able to join us for the finish,” he said. “I’m hoping next season will be more like ones we’ve had before.”