EDMONTON -- More than 4,300 of people have signed an online petition over the last week calling for the provincial government to open arenas in phase two of Alberta’s relaunch strategy.

“We started it because we wanted to create a buzz. I didn’t realize it was just going to take off,” said Paul Stone, owner of the Edmonton Ice Crushers spring hockey league.

Hockey organizations across the province have teamed up to form the United Hockey Alliance of Alberta. Its goal is to have modified hockey programs placed in the category of small group gatherings. The alliance is lobbying the government to approve its four-phase action plan, so players and coaches can return to the ice for skill development, while following safety guidelines. 

“We’re not talking about getting the kids back on the ice and playing games right away. What we’re asking is for kids to enter the ice in groups of five, and just really focussing on individual development for the first few weeks. We’re talking seventeen kids on the ice, plus coaches,” said Stone.

“If you look at the 22,000 people that have viewed our petition, I’ve received five very nasty emails.”

Sandra Bucerius is a hockey mom and professor of sociology at the University of Alberta. She supports the initiative but says it has created some debate in the hockey community. Parents must decide if it’s safe enough to allow their kids back on the ice, and if it’s worth the risk.

“Obviously there’s a bit of a voice in the community...that thinks that hockey is very powerful and maybe we should also be thinking about other sports, and that I can totally agree with...I think from a research perspective, that sports and any sort of activities are very, very important for children. For their mental wellbeing and for their physical wellbeing,” said Bucerius.

Spring hockey camps and programs are big business in Alberta.

The sector is feeling financial strain like many others. the alliance believes its strategy can work, but Alberta Health is still reviewing when arenas can safely open.