Kids back on the ice after Alberta approves highly-restricted hockey practices
EDMONTON -- It’s not the hockey everyone wants or is familiar with, but it’ll have to do for now.
That was the consensus at the Canadian Athletic Hockey Arena in north Edmonton Tuesday night, as a small group of AAA teenagers had their first practice in more than two months due to a coronavirus shutdown.
“We had a few guys on the ice and it’s fantastic to be back,” Coach Tony Orsini said.
Games are still banned, only ten people are allowed on the ice, and players must maintain a 3 metres distance. Masks are also required in the building, except for players on the ice.
On Tuesday, masked coaches could be heard reminding players to stay apart from each other, but Orsini admitted it was “impossible” to ensure exact distance at all times.
“There’s challenges here, but it’s not a full team, so we’re just really focusing on technical skill work,” Orsini said, adding his players are trying hard to follow all of the rules.
“They’re very excited to be back. A lot of these kids are striving to get to the next level. So if this is what they have, they’ll take this and run with it. Any ice time is good ice time,” he said.
For 15-year-old player Saige Weinstein, coming back was not even a question. He’s confident his group is safe.
“It’s great to get back on with the boys and have a little fun out here. This is the best we can get. We have to follow the protocols or they’ll be another lockdown,” Weinstein said.
KIDS PRACTICES ADDED TO STEP 1
The Alberta government announced on Saturday that restrictions on some children’s activities were being loosened, just two days before the change came into effect.
“There are many factors that are considered in these decisions, such as the impact restrictions on children's mental health,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Monday.
With COVID-19 variants now spreading in Alberta, and most people still waiting to be vaccinated, some experts believe reopening is the wrong move and another lockdown could be coming.
Hinshaw said Alberta’s reopening plan is fluid and depends on people following the rules.
“I want to stress to the parents, players, trainers, and coaches that it's vital that every public health measure be followed at all times. This is the only way to protect the health of everyone involved,” she added.
CITY-OWNED RINKS STILL CLOSED
While Orsini and CAC had the advantage of operating their own arena, getting back on the ice wasn’t so easy for everyone with many rinks still closed.
Edmonton mayor Don Iveson said council was “surprised” by the provinces last-minute decision to allow hockey practices.
It wasn’t clear when city-operated rinks would be reopened, but a plan was on the agenda for Wednesday’s Emergency Advisory Committee meeting.
“We’ve been in touch with the user groups to try and bring facilities online in a realistic timeline in partnership with them. I think they understand the bind that the city is in because they were also caught by surprise,” Iveson said.
“I think we are all struggling, we are all fatigued with constant rule change,” he said, although Iveson acknowledged the provinces challenge with quickly changing circumstances and many groups to inform.
A full list of Alberta’s restrictions coronavirus restrictions can be found online.