With most sports cancelled, 100 Mile House’s Minor Hockey League players are just happy to still be on the ice.
Thanks to COVID-19 safety precautions and new schedules, players have been able to continue to practice this month although they can no longer play any games, even in-house. Despite the restrictions, they’re honing their skills in preparation for the seasons that will come after the pandemic.
League president Roxanne Sutton, who has a 16-year-old daughter and two sons, 13 and 11, in the league, said both players and their parents are happy to stay active. Sutton took over the presidency in 2020 after five years of being involved with the executive and said despite all challenges this year has brought, it’s been a good year overall.
“We’ve had some changes we’ve had to make but the parents have all been really good, the community has been supportive and Canlan has been amazing,” Sutton said.
The league has 147 players registered this season, down slightly from its usual 150 to 160 players, which Sutton attributes to COVID fears or players moving away from the community. While they have had their ups and downs, she’s just really thankful the players are still able to get out onto the ice and exercise. She feels it’s really important for both their mental and physical health, as staying cooped up inside during the late winter and spring lockdowns has been really rough on them.
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“I think after they were confined in their house last spring, with no school and being unable to see their friends, this was a really positive thing for them. I’ve had nothing but good comments from the kids,” Sutton said.
Precautions in place include a screening questionnaire that everyone must fill out before entering the rink, mandatory masks, no spectators in the stands, limiting the use of the change rooms, and physical distancing of three metres on the ice. Adopting these precautions were not without their unique challenges, Sutton observed.
“It was really challenging for our younger groups, because how do you get 20 five-year-olds dressed? So we had to adapt and tell parents to bring them dressed with their skates on,” Sutton said, adding that due to mandates they’ve had to split some teams up into two groups to ensure proper distancing.
“Those are some of the challenges we’ve been faced with but it’s just adapting. I think everybody has had to adapt to something new whether it’s wearing masks wherever we go or hand sanitizing.”
While it’s nice to still be practising, Sutton said it’s frustrating for the players to not be able to play any games right now, especially as they had some scheduled for December. Sutton said they’re waiting on Dr. Bonnie Henry to tell them if they’ll be able to play games within their league again, come January. If they’re given the go-ahead, she said they’ll be playing games within a week.
She’s hopeful that over Christmas people respect the rules so that, in the new year, they’ll be able to resume gameplay.