Fuller Lake Arena change rooms only opened up again on Monday, but only for putting on skates and not shower use. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Unusual season of minor hockey slowly taking shape

Teams doing a lot of practicing right now while awaiting the possibility of games

Organizing the National Hockey League bubbles was probably easier than what minor hockey organizations like the Cowichan Valley Minor Hockey Association have been facing to become operational for the 2020-21 season.

The CVMHA utilizes ice primarily at the Fuller Lake and Duncan arenas, but also at Lake Cowichan. The season started in earnest on Sept. 8 with 26 teams in divisions across the age spectrum from five to 21 doing a lot of practicing so far in anticipation of the possible return of game action.

“Each of the teams is getting two ice sessions a week and they’re full ice sessions,” explained CVMHA executive administrator Kathy Irving.

“Our coaches have to be really creative in keeping these kids occupied on the ice.”

But it’s already taken a lot just to get to this point, with much more that needs to happen before trying to put games together again can even be considered.

Practice and development, “that’s all we can do right now,” conceded Irving. “I’m in meetings with the arenas trying to figure out how we can pull off games.”

COVID protocols at the arenas and in keeping with provincial health orders are making the hockey environment complicated. Continual cleaning that’s putting extra demands on arena staff and minimal use of facilities such as change rooms are just the beginning.

Related: Adult hockey groups weighing options amid countless COVID restrictions at Fuller Lake Arena

The Fuller Lake Arena change rooms just opened up again on Monday for players to put on skates, rather than in the warm room, but are still not available for shower use.

Players all must arrive with their equipment already on, other than skates, and some leeway is being granted for goaltenders and their bulky gear. Only 10 players can be in one dressing room at any one time at Fuller Lake to maintain social distancing and as few as six in Duncan.

Players enter on the top level at Fuller Lake and exit from the lower level.

Each arena has different return to play requirements, Irving noted.

“It’s a very different season, but at least we got our kids on the ice,” she said.

The kids, particularly in the Under 9 age level that has skaters as young as five, are their usual exuberant selves despite the circumstances. Everyone would love to be playing games, of course, but it’s just not possible right now.

There’s extra demands even before the kids get into the arena and strict measures are undertaken to ensure the numbers in the building do not exceed 50. That doesn’t allow too much space for parents by the time you consider players, staff and team coaches.

“Every one of our teams has a COVID team host that greets them at the door,” Irving indicated.

The parent volunteers have to keep meticulous track of how many are entering the building and complete a contact tracing list to be held onto for 30 days.

“The team host is instrumental in the workings of it,” noted Irving. “It takes a lot of volunteers to pull this off. Big shout out to the volunteers. We needed them in the past, but even more now.”

Seating is arranged at Fuller Lake and parents must sit in the designated area. There often isn’t enough room to also accommodate grandparents which is disappointing to many of them who look forward to watching the kids play hockey.

While all this is going on, coaches wanting to assist with teams still need to go through several courses and some of that is being converted to virtual this year. It’s a big undertaking for them just to volunteer their time.

The Vancouver Island Amateur Hockey Association is providing continual direction and won’t be releasing anything about cohort schedules until everybody’s schedules come in while “BC Hockey is releasing all sorts of information all the time,” Irving added.

Cohorts for Cowichan Valley teams, once established, might include Nanaimo teams but that would probably be the extent of any travel.

Irving’s job, already quite complicated in a normal season, now includes being the COVID communications officer.

“Interesting season is a good way to describe it,” she sighed.

Meanwhile, the Thanksgiving weekend would have been the annual Cowichan Valley Memorial Midget C Tournament at Fuller Lake Arena. The tournament honours families brought together by the deaths of young hockey players over the years from tragic circumstances.

Related: Memorable weekend of hockey and camaraderie in Chemainus, Duncan

The tournament was originally held at the end of the season in March. When that was cancelled this year at the start of COVID restrictions, tournament organizer Irving and her large committee thought they’d move it to the start of the next season in October, something that had been contemplated for some time. COVID hasn’t allowed that to happen, either.

“Who could have forecast this would go on this long?” pondered Irving. “We kind of came up with a plan we really thought would work. We thought by moving to Thanksgiving we’d be good to go.

“Realistically, we’ll be trying for next Thanksgiving.”

It is with “heavy hearts”, Irving added, that the decision was made to cancel again because the families involved look so forward to the event all year as a memorial to their loved ones.

Coronavirushockey

 

Players always look forward to the Cowichan Valley Memorial Midget C hockey tournament, particularly those from the host Cowichan Valley teams. (Photo by Don Bodger)

There’s a memoriam to Brayden Gale at Chemainus Lake. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Rob Kernachan’s son Eric is one of the players remembered during the Cowichan Valley Memorial Midget C tournament. (Photo by Don Bodger)

There’s a wonderful collection of unique trophies given out at the Cowichan Valley Memorial Midget C hockey tournament each year. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Just Posted

Police closed McNeill Avenue after a workplace death Oct. 20, 2020. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Tree-pruning community gathers in Oak Bay after tragic death

Crews met in solidarity at site of Tuesday incident

Members of the Sipekne’katik First Nation load lobster traps on the wharf in Saulnierville, N.S., after launching its own self-regulated fishery on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Vancouver Island First Nations back Nova Scotia’s Indigenous lobster fishermen

Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council calls for action before lives are lost

Sails down, masks up for Ron and Sherry Pryde, who completed a 119 day journey that was supposed to be 70 days. (Zoe Ducklow)
Coast Guard towed rudderless sailors to Port Hardy hours before a powerful storm

Rudderless for a month, the couple zigzagged most the way home with “a few donuts and lazy-eights”

Police in Nanaimo are looking for a woman who allegedly threw hot coffee on a McDonald’s employee. (News Bulletin photo)
UPDATE: Nanaimo RCMP still looking for woman who threw coffee at worker after already receiving refund

Police asking for information in investigation that could lead to assault charges

The Skeena Queen, serving the Swartz Bay-Fulford Harbour route has been out of action since early Wednesday morning, forcing BC Ferries to cancel eight sailings connecting the Saanich Peninsula and Salt Spring Island. It is not clear when service will resume. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
UPDATED: BC Ferries cancels additional sailings to Salt Spring Island

With repairs to Skeena Queen underway, it is not clear when service will resume

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presents modelling of COVID-19 spread in B.C., March 25, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 203 new cases

up to 1,766 active cases in B.C., two more deaths

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
British Columbia man dies during ski trip near glacier west of Calgary

Kananaskis Public Safety and Alpine Helicopters responded around 2:30 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, following a week-long break for the House of Commons. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
One crisis after another for Trudeau since last federal election one year ago

It has been a year of unprecedented calamity and crisis

BC Greens leader Sonia Furstenau says British Columbians face a choice between “false majority government” and a “more cooperative, collaborative” form of governance during a campaign stop in Saanich North and the Islands Monday (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
BC Greens leader makes pitch for minority government

Sonia Furstenau calls on British Columbians to reject ‘false majority government’

The Saanich Teachers’ Association is calling on the local provincial election candidates from all parties to commit to making schools healthier and safer for all. (Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich teachers call on election candidates for improved health, safety in schools

Increased funding, reduced class sizes among required changes, says association president

Skiers line up to start the Royal LePage Comox Valley Snow to Surf Adventure Relay Race. Photo by Tim Penney
Popular Comox Valley adventure race cancelled for 2021

COVID forces Comox Valley Royal LePage Snow to Surf Adventure Relay Race cancellation again

Chris Istace campaigning in Crofton. (Photo submitted)
Green Party’s Istace apologizes for remark about First Nations gaming grants being a ‘handout’

Island candidate determined to do better in thinking and communicating matters of reconciliation

Rio Tinto Alcan’s aluminum smelter at Kitimat competes against producers in the Middle East and Russia that have no carbon tax. (Rio Tinto)
B.C. carbon tax highest in Canada, export industries unprotected

B.C. NDP, B.C. Liberals say they’re looking at exemptions

Most Read