Pandemic restrictions threaten to put minor hockey season on ice

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Hopes that minor hockey can restore a sense of stability for children, coaches and parents in Ottawa this winter could be dashed as several leagues move to cancel the upcoming season amid tighter pandemic restrictions.A number of the city’s minor hockey associations have already suspended their programs, saying it is currently not possible to continue. Some have even attempted – unsuccessfully – to book ice time in areas outside of town that don’t fall under the new restrictions the province announced for Ottawa, Toronto and Peel Region last week.

Currently, a maximum of 10 skaters, including coaches, are allowed on the ice at any time in the city.

Games are prohibited and only training can take place. Spectators are not allowed inside the arenas, and players must arrive at the ice rink in uniform as the changing rooms are closed.

Losing the sense of “normality”

The Nepean Minor Hockey Association and the West End Hockey League have both informed families that they are suspending programming until the new restrictions are lifted. The City of Ottawa Ringette Association has announced the same.

Ozzie Osman, president of the West End Hockey League, said the cancellations are a blow to anyone eager to get back on the ice and resume their winter routine.

It is just not profitable for us and we would lose too much money.– Ozzie Osman, West End Hockey League

“I think it’s normal, and I think [it’s] making sure the kids can be a little free on the ice and have fun in a sport we all love. [But] the reality of all of this is that we have to keep everyone safe, ”Osman said.

“Our threshold is 18 kids on the ice with four coaches. That would be our breakeven point. So it’s just not profitable for us and we would lose too much money, ”he said.

Osman said the West End Hockey League plans to reassess the situation on November 7.

Some young hockey players have said that being back on the ice in recent weeks has been “amazing” after months of unprecedented change.

Jake Fisher, 14, says his last practice with the Osgoode Richmond Romans was sad due to the season suspension. 0:29

Jake Fisher, 14, had one last practice with the Osgoode Richmond Romans on Wednesday night after finding out their season would be on hold. Fisher said he and his teammates left the ice at the end of practice, feeling “pretty depressed” over the uncertainty.

“It’s sad that I can’t play hockey because that’s where I see my friends the most,” said Fisher, who alternates between learning online and in the classroom at school.

A handful of players tested positive

Some hockey associations, including the one Fisher plays under, have said they are awaiting further advice from Hockey Eastern Ontario (HEO), the region’s governing body for amateur hockey.

HEO said a small number of players and volunteers had tested positive for COVID-19.

“Less than 10 in a group of over 20,000 participants,” HEO CEO Debbie Rambeau said in an email to CBC. “At this time, we don’t believe any member has contracted the virus as a result of a sanctioned HEO event. ”

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) said in a statement that recent contact tracing investigations have “identified confirmed transmissions and outbreaks between staff and players.”

In an updated statement Thursday, HEO said hockey programs with Ottawa teams must comply with regulations. HEO said it supports guidelines from the Eastern Ontario, Renfrew County and Leeds Grenville Lanark health units that “strongly discourage” Ottawa-based programs that lease ice facilities to the outside the city.

Programs with teams outside of Ottawa can continue to Stage 3 – meaning they can train, mingle, and play ‘No Contact and COVID Modified Games’ in cohorts of 50 people or less.

Ozzie Osman, president of the West End Hockey League, says the suspension is disappointing given the work the league volunteers do to make hockey as safe as possible. 0:38

OPH said that since the province imposed the restrictions last Friday, local health officials have started working with hockey associations to find ways to safely adjust and return to play.

Meanwhile, an official at the Robert Hartley Sports Complex in Hawkesbury, Ont., East of Ottawa, told the CBC he had received calls from Ottawa hockey teams asking to rent time. of ice, but refused these requests.

The mayor of Casselman, Ont., Also east of Ottawa, told CBC he had received six similar requests from Ottawa teams, but also turned them down.

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