Adult hockey groups uncertain about breaking the ice with COVID-19 blocking the goal

Late ice slots, no changerooms or outside teams allowed and cost factors all weighing heavily

Fuller Lake Vintage Flyers, back row, from left, include: Barry Ronningen, Dave Peters, Dirk Tolman, Rich Harnish, Bernie Fall, Darren Moore, Lonny Ferguson, Steve Fisher. Front: Lorne Dubinsky, Tod LeSergent, Morris MacDonald, Greg McBrine, Darren Thomson, Jerry Keller, Michel Guimond. Absent: Brian Lundberg, Garry Matson, Stan Miller, Trevor March, Rick Jones, Mark Traer. (Photo submitted)

Adult hockey groups at Fuller Lake Arena in Chemainus are wondering about the feasibility of many aspects of the Return to Play guidelines amid COVID-19.

Late ice times are a primary concern as well as not having the opportunity to play against other teams and numerous conditions that for some will quite literally take the fun out of the game.

The earliest ice time available after Oct. 13 for adult groups in a memo released by reception and booking clerk May Logan is 8:30 p.m. on Mondays. It only gets worse from there, with a Sunday slot going from 10:45 p.m. to 12:05 a.m.

No groups are receiving a set ice time this year, Logan indicated, “but we will try to get as close as we can to what you want. This will depend on how many teams are wanting to play this season.”

Requests were due to be sent in by Sept. 4.

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On top of that, there’s a long list of COVID protocols expected from teams, including the following:

• All groups will be required to complete a ViaSport BC COVID-19 Return to Play Form.

• All players must be part of the same team (termed ‘in-club’ play).

• Interclub or regional game play is prohibited at this time.

• Teams cannot challenge other teams.

• All participants will be required to wash and/or sanitize hands when entering the arena area.

• Maximum group size is 18 players, with two goalies and eight players per side.

• Game play must be four-on-four.

• Physical distancing must occur on and off the ice.

• There’s absolutely no physical contact between players. For penalties, there will be a penalty shot with no players serving penalties in the penalty box.

• No faceoffs will occur.

• Physical distancing must be maintained in the player’s box and while entering/exiting the ice surface.

• All players will enter the facility through the top main entrance.

• One member of the team must be the “host” and check players in when they arrive.

• All players will be asked to fill in a COVID-19 questionnaire and record all responses.

• If players answer ‘yes’ to any of the questions, they will not be allowed to enter the arena.

• The check-in sheets will be collected by sanitizing staff after the group is finished its ice time.

• Players can arrive 15 minutes before their ice time, will need to come dressed and use the lower warm room as the location to put on their skates. Dressing rooms are currently closed and that will be reassessed in the late fall 2020.

• Players will have 10 minutes after their ice time to pack up gear and leave through the lower entrance to allow time for staff to sanitize the area for the next group.

• Water bottles must be filled at home, not at the rink.

• Players seen spitting and/or nose blowing in an unsanitary manner in the facility will be asked to leave immediately.

• No spectators are allowed into the building to watch these ice times.

Richard Harnish of the Fuller Lake Vintage Flyers noted the Return to Play plan isn’t at all what his team expected or is very keen about, even though the reasons for it are understandable. Late times are always a problem, he indicated.

“We lost all our regular ice slots, which I understand is temporary for this year only, at least I hope that’s so anyway.”

Going down the list, Harnish sees nothing but issues.

“The fact we can only inter-squad scrimmage, no games or outside teams are allowed to come in, that there’s no changerooms (showers) available, and all us having to show up already dressed to play (imagine the goalies driving to Fuller Lake all geared up), and never mind the costs now which will be decidedly higher, spread out over lesser guys if they even agree to come out – that’s always an issue for teams any year – ugh.”

He added the four-on-four scrimmaging would be OK, but the costs are a big issue.

With only 18 players maximum per session, including two goalies, the ice costs aren’t going down, Harnish pointed out, as far as he’s aware, so the affordability is questionable.

“In short, I can’t see many guys wanting to come out to play effectively a late night drop-in. Financially, we’d probably be better off to suspend our operations until we can get back to a more ‘normal’ scenario. I’ve heard of other teams saying that until there’s changerooms and showers available they won’t even consider playing.”

A couple of Victoria teams the Vintage Flyers usually play against have suspended operations for the season and will revisit it all next September.

“I suspect that will be what many will end up doing,” reasoned Harnish. “It’s hard enough to organize during normal operations, now with COVID it’s impacted even moreso.”

Harnish indicated the Vintage Flyers have put in for the better of the ice slots, but he’s not overly confident many guys will want to sign up as things are now.

“We are being open-minded and hope we can do something but it will be a huge challenge,” he added. “We are naturally disappointed. There was no summer hockey and now it looks as if getting to play this season is questionable.”

Harnish was willing to bet a few wives would have some things to say about the situation.

“We don’t have enough players to be against ourselves,” remarked Dave Bodger of the Possum Lodgers team. “It’s not the same playing against your own team.”

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The Small Block rec hockey tournament occurred on the final weekend before the pandemic restrictions occurred in March. Because of COVID restrictions, those teams might not be playing at all this season. (Photo by Don Bodger)

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