If all goes according to plan, there may be some hockey happening next month after all.
The Yellowknife Sporting Club, which organizes camps and an annual summer 3-on-3 league for youth players, has been given an exemption to get going under Phase 2 of the GNWT’s Emerging Wisely document. The club met with the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer (CPHO) this past Monday and got the green light to re-start operations under a modified return-to-play system, which will allow for skills and drills programs only. There is no game play scheduled at the present time.
Brad Anstey, who helps run the club, said the meeting went better than he expected it would.
“They seemed quite impressed with how we created a bubble within the arena to minimize the risk,” he said. “I was surprised with how understanding they were. We were optimistic going in but we thought they were going to want changes and I was a bit surprised that it was received as well as it was.”
Umesh Sutendra, a spokesperson with the Health and Social Services department, said in an email the CPHO is considering “exceptional circumstance exemptions for certain youth activities, including indoor hockey for 19 years of age and younger, and allowing them in Relaxing Phase 2 with additional public health measures to address the risk of Covid-19. An announcement will be made once these have been finalized.”
Anstey gave plenty of credit to Jeff Seabrook, who also works within the club’s organizational structure, for his work in putting together the nine-page proposal.
“Jeff spoke with organizations in the south on what they were doing and prepared our proposal based on what he was told,” he said.
The proposal outlines everything the club plans to do and how it will ensure everyone stays as safe as possible. Using the Yk Community Arena as an example, the club plans on participants arriving no more than 10 minutes before their ice time. They must remain inside a vehicle until the arena doors are opened by a club member. Once inside, everyone will be checked in during a 10-minute window.
Anyone who takes part will have to have a waiver signed and all stations will be sanitized following each group’s time slot. Anyone arriving late will not be allowed to take part.
The big thing now is for the city to approve the proposal and open an arena for the club to use. It will have to be the Yk Community Arena as the Multiplex is undergoing repairs at the present time.
“We’ve been in contact with the city because they maintain the facilities,” said Anstey. “We’re hoping that if things get going, they’ll be able to identify any markers we’ve put in so people know where they have to be on the ice in order to have the proper distancing.”
Currently facilities including the community arena are shuttered as a Covid-19 precaution. Yellowknifer reached out to the leadership of the city’s facilities department for comment but did not receive an immediate response.
Hockey Canada gave its provincial and territorial organizations the option of how it wanted to open back in May and Anstey said the club’s proposal goes further than what even Hockey Canada outlined under its Phase I return.
The Yk Minor Hockey Association is getting its affairs in order to present to both the chief public health officer and the city as it pertains to league play this fall but knowing that there’s a chance to get back on the ice was music to the ears of Kacee MacLean, the association’s president.
She said big thanks have to go to the sporting club and the chief public health officer for working diligently on getting hockey exempted.
“From the emails, texts and Facebook responses we have had today (Wednesday), it is clear that our families are eager to get kids back to hockey,” she said.
MacLean said the association will have its final plans ready for submission later this week.
Anstey said it will be a costly exercise – he estimated it will probably cost no less than $30,000 to run just the skills and drills – but it’s all about getting youth active.
“The chief public health officer understands that kids need the chance to get out of the house and play,” he said. “There’s the physical health aspect of it but also the mental health part. We’ve seen the doctors last week talk about how frustrating it is to see the restrictions still in place that don’t have to be there but I’m hopeful this will start something.
“I understand Dr. (Kami) Kandola had other priorities to deal with but getting the opportunity to speak with her and show how much planning we put into this was a big deal and I’m really happy she saw that. I think she saw that what we had made sense and I’m very appreciative of her decision.”
Anstey also hopes other groups will see this and come up with their own proposals to get going.
“This might give some hope to broomball, to the (Yk) Oldtimers League, to the (Yk) Rec League, to figure skating,” he said. “Just get something down, talk to other people and see what other groups in your sport are doing to get back up and running.”
This story will be updated.