Edmonton minor sports organizations switching into 'high gear' after province's surprise loosening of rules
EDMONTON -- Although some Edmonton athletics organizations were caught off guard by a sudden rollback of restrictions on youth sports, they're wasting no time starting up their activities once again.
"It was a surprise," the general manager for Hockey Edmonton, Steve Hogle, told CTV News Edmonton. "A good surprise, but a surprise nonetheless."
"We've been in high gear ever since."
- READ MORE: Minor sports now allowed to return with restrictions as Alberta set to lift some COVID-19 measures
The announcement from the province came just days after Hockey Alberta said it would throw in the towel on the 2020-21 season.
The reconsideration on group activities comes with new precautions, including no spectators, minimal use of change rooms and distancing of three meters inside, or two meters outside.
Alberta's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw apologized Monday for any additional confusion or costs.
"I understand that that is inconvenient and in some cases expensive for those organizations that have made those choices," she said. "I'm sorry for that."
"What we have tried to do all along throughout this pandemic is to again balance those different considerations of making sure that we're minimizing the impacts of COVID and at the same time the impacts of restrictions."
The new provincial guidelines allow a maximum of 10 people to participate at once, including trainers and coaches.
Teams are able to practice, but still no games can be played.
Hockey Alberta said in a news release Tuesday, it will allow teams to divide indoor arena ice surfaces in half so practices can be held with two groups of 10.
The governing body for minor hockey in Alberta says physical barriers should be used to divide the ice surface.
Hogle says the new plan includes players of all ages.
The Hockey Edmonton GM is still hopeful the province's latest announcement leads to even more relaxed rules and even more hockey in the weeks to come.
"We want to have a plan in place where we can scale it up if we're allowed more people on the ice," he said. "If they introduce, 'Contact is OK,' we wanna be able to adopt that as well."
"All the plans are scalable, depending on the health measures of the day."
Some teams with access to privately run arenas were already hitting the ice Monday afternoon.
With municipal arenas still closed to the public, Hogle says Hockey Edmonton is working with the city in an effort to get them opened as quickly as possible.
"They are putting a plan in place," he said. "And that will go to council Wednesday."
Hogle says he's hopeful those city rinks will be open by next week.
Hockey Edmonton provides minor hockey to 10,000 kids and teens across the city.
The looser restrictions also mean in-person dance classes are allowed to resume -- a relief for Edmonton Dance Factory's Kelsey Snow.
"It's a very exciting day for us," Snow told CTV News Edmonton.
"Today we're re-taping our floors with correct distancing markers to comply with the new three-meter regulations, so we can make sure that we keep our kids 3 meters apart at all times."
Snow says the last provincial lockdown caused the dance studio to be closed since Nov. 15, as well as three months last spring.
"It's been tough," she said. "We were closed for a very long time."
The studio normally only operates from September to June.
"We've lost an entire season almost," Snow said.
The dance studio is now opening its doors to its students, aged three to eight, Monday afternoon.
The in-person lessons, Snow says, much more beneficial to the students than learning remotely.
"The atmosphere of being able to feed off of anybody else in the room, feeling the energy in the room, that's why we do it in person."
Like the minor hockey association, the dance studio hopes the possibility of live competitions is still to come in the weeks or months ahead.
"We're very happy to have our students back in the studio," said Snow. "That’s step one and we'll see what happens after that."
PROVINCE MANAGING RISKS: HEALTH MINISTER SHANDRO
In a news conference Monday morning, Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro said the government's decision to allow minor sports to resume in the province as part of Step 1 of the latest relaunch plan was based on recommendations made by public health officials.
"(We're) making sure that between each step we have a three-week window where we can look at that evidence, making sure that we're seeing whether cases are continuing to rise or continuing to fall," he said.
"What we need to do in each of these steps is looking at the levels of risk within each of these activities and managing those risks in the step-wise approach," said Shandro. "That's what's guiding our decisions here."
With files from CTV News Edmonton's David Ewasuk