‘Game will look different:’ Hockey Canada

The Brockville Braves practice at the Memorial Centre in November. (FILE PHOTO) jpg, BT

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Like so many other things these days, figuring out how to bring back hockey in a COVID-19 world is complicated.

In a recent open letter, senior officials with Hockey Canada noted that the organization is working on a multi-faceted return-to-hockey plan and called for patience as it is being finalized.

“The health and safety of everyone involved in the game will determine when we return, not our desire to get back on the ice,” the letter stated. “And the game will look different, that much we know.”

The framework of the return plan covers eight areas, including regulations, safety and protocols, officiating and seasonal structure.

Hockey Canada noted that the plan will be implemented at different speeds and at different times across the country. The pandemic prompted an abrupt end to junior and minor hockey seasons in March.

The Brockville Jr. A Braves hosted – and won – the only CCHL playoff game of 2019-2020; play was suspended the next day, and then the remainder of the season was cancelled.

Dustin Traylen, general manager of the Brockville Braves and the Jr. B Tikis, acknowledged that the province will be the driving force in determining when and under what conditions hockey will be allowed to resume.

“The Braves and Tikis are only interested in participating in a normal five-versus-five full season,” Traylen stated.

The Braves had initially planned to hold a prospects camp at Ingredion Centre in Cardinal in July, but the original dates were scrapped because of the ongoing suspension of activities.

“I highly doubt that there will be camps in July, but it’s anyone’s guess,” Traylen remarked.

“Once things open up, our plan is to have a one-weekend tryout camp followed quickly by an extended training camp for our teams.”

The Kemptville 73’s rescheduled their Jr. A camp and tryouts in North Grenville to July 10-12. Other CCHL teams such as the Smiths Falls Bears and Navan Grads are scheduled to hold camps in August.

The CCHL regular season usually opens by the second week of September, with the Jr. B league hitting the ice a short time later. Whether or not the 2020-2021 seasons hit the ice in September or October makes no difference, according to Traylen.

“We will prepare accordingly,” he said.

The Brockville COVID-19 recovery plan adopted by city council includes a listing for the ice surfaces at the Memorial Centre and Youth Arena.

“Significant challenges to follow public health guidelines for hockey as it is a contact sport,” wrote municipal staff, who also noted that standard operating procedures “could possibly” be developed for other on-ice activities such as figure skating and public skating.

Not all user groups might choose to start up even if their activities are permitted by the province, according to the plan. In recommending that the city wait to hear more information from the province and public health, staff suggested that a decision on the two ice surfaces would need to be made by early August.

The status of Brockville’s outdoor rinks would be reviewed at a later date.

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