Ridge Meadows Minor Hockey Association will be one of many across the province happy to get more freedom to pursue their sport, as the province announced it is moving to phase three of the Return to Sport Guidelines.
Dave Lige, RMMHA executive director, said that will mean moving beyond practices and drills to competitive games. The games will be four-on-four or three-on-three, allowing smaller roster sizes – 10 athletes instead of 17.
He explained the smaller games are preferable because kids can spread out on the bench, in the dressing rooms, and on the ice, allowing for “fewer faces in confined spaces,” as he put it.
For parents, coaches and athletes who were scared of losing an entire season to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s great news. But Lige cautioned it’s not a “return to normal.”
“Some form of hockey will happen, it’s just a matter of what it looks like,” said Lige.
The association is one of 60 in the province that has developed a return to play plan under provincial guidelines. After Thanksgiving weekend they hope to do tiering games, and play games in small cohorts of four teams. The C teams will run like house teams, just playing in town. There will be no tournaments.
He said kids need to play games, rather than just do drills.
“If we can create some form of competitive atmosphere for them, given the state of the world, we’re doing pretty good,” said Lige.
Athletes throughout British Columbia will be able to engage in more organized sport activities and some competitive play.
“I know athletes and their families have been missing the joy of competition these past few months,” said Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA Lisa Beare. “viaSport has done a great job working with health officials and our amateur sport organizations to ensure we can safely and gradually return to game play. I encourage everyone – players, parents, coaches and volunteers – to continue to work together to make sure we can play and compete safely.”
Lige noted 30 minutes has been allocated between ice times to clean dressing rooms, and for users to leave before the next group arrives. The effect of that is to cost the association 25 hours of ice time scheduling each week.
“That’s everyone’s biggest challenge – ice and ice availability.”
The BC Centre for Disease Control has reviewed viaSport’s Return to Sport Guidelines for Phase 3. The guidelines contain recommendations for how different types of sports now can progressively add activities back again while continuing to adhere to current public health recommendations. This new guidance addresses contact activities, cohorts, competitions, high-performance training environments and travel.
“Sport is an important part of mental and physical health for children, youth, families and our communities,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer. “These guidelines will enable the social and emotional benefits of sport, while ensuring the sports activities remain as safe as possible.”
Each sport will advance at a different pace depending on community capacity and readiness.