NHL players return to the ice in Ottawa this week


The wait to skate again is finally over.

In a small but important step, the NHL and OHL players will return to the ice in Ottawa on Thursday for the first time since the arenas for the new coronavirus closed 10 weeks ago.

The Minto Arena, a private facility on Lancaster Road, has received approval from the Ontario government to reopen, provided that no more than five people are on the ice at all times.

There will be other strict codes of conduct in place, including maintaining an appropriate physical distance at all times in the building.

Not surprisingly, it didn’t take long for the word to spread and the rink to fill up.

Since Minto received approval to continue its plans, the building is solid from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. for 50-minute sessions on Thursday and Friday.

“He has been quite busy from our perspective and we have had a lot of inquiries in the past 24 to 48 hours,” said Minto Arena general manager Scott Lawryk. “Many skating schools check it, as do professional players and professional miners.”

Senators and other NHL players living in Ottawa will take the opportunity to skate for the first time since the league closed more than two months ago.

At this point, however, the idea of ​​formal practice or even informal shinny games is far away.

Players who go on the ice will seek to eliminate rust and refine their strides with isolated skating exercises, in most cases with a skating coach who will provide the instruction from a distance.

“Any activity on the ice must respect a physical distance,” said Lawryk, who contacted the provincial government for approval and advice after Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that the first step in the plan reopening of the province would begin Tuesday. “Many people use him as a coach and four players. You’re not going to have conventional hockey. You are not going to have situations, for example, where you could have puck fights.

“We have three ice surfaces and we only use one – the international ice surface – so it’s easier to keep your distance. Five people on the ice shouldn’t be a problem. “

The NHL continues to hope to play hockey over the summer, the most likely being an extension of the 24 playoff teams with no spectators allowed to be named local.

Senators, who sat 30e in the 31-team league when play was suspended, would not be involved in such a scenario, but summer training is vital for young players in their development.

Ottawa is also home to NHL players from playoff teams, as well as players from Ottawa 67 and other promising young teens from the region.

Expect all of the above to be on the ice as soon as possible.

While Lawryk says “there is no playbook” on how to gradually resume ice rink operations, the Minto Arena has taken tracks from British Columbia, where the reopening of the economy is coming in a few weeks. The Burnaby Winter Club opened on May 5, with a number of restrictions in place, including a limited number of skaters on the ice at all times.

It is all about health and safety.

Skaters are asked to show up at Minto arena ready to go, carrying everything they will need on the ice, except skates. Once inside the rink, an area – allowing a good physical distance – will be reserved for a maximum of five people to tie the skates. Once these skaters are on the ice, the room will be completely disinfected, preparing the next group. Skaters will leave the ice in a separate outing room.

According to custom, a Zamboni resurfaces on the ice after each 50-minute session, but no spectator will be allowed to enter the ice at any time.

“We have worked in consultation with the province,” said Lawryk. “We have developed an entry / exit strategy for the building where no one backs up or crosses paths.

“There are a lot of moving parts. We will have a greeter at the door, like a beginner on a golf course. You talk to the starter, who advises people on the rules and we will have a supervisor inside, to make sure the rules are followed.

“Some people might say it’s overkill, but we’d rather be on the safe side. “

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