The latest round of provincial COVID-19 restrictions has put Battlefords Minor Hockey Association on pause until at least Dec. 17.
In an interview scheduled to air on Access TV’s Locker Talk show, BMHA president Kyle Kellgren said the association held a meeting last Thursday and agreed to suspend all activities in the wake of the new restrictions. In addition to games, all practices are on hold.
It was disappointing, but not unexpected.
“The last couple of weeks they were talking about more restrictions, and their case numbers were going up,” said Kellgren. “We’ve been kind of preparing for it on our end. We knew this last announcement here on Wednesday was not going to be good for minor hockey, just based on the previous restrictions. You hear through the grapevine what’s going on and the things they were talking about.”
The measures that came down from the province were more restrictive than expected. Kellgren said they hoped for measures such as a return to Phase 2 of the Safe Hockey plan, which would have allowed for practises with teams similar to what went on earlier this fall prior to the resumption of games.
The newest restrictions were “very restrictive to what we were doing,” said Kellgren. No games were allowed to proceed, but the rules did allow for under-18 practices under restrictive protocols, with a maximum of eight kids participating and wearing masks at all times while social-distancing on the ice.
After the announcement came down from the province the BMHA board held a meeting Thursday to determine what to do moving forward. “We as an association looked at every angle — safety of the kids, safety for our coaches, safety for spectators,” said Kellgren.
Another growing issue was the need for contact tracing and the fact that coaches found themselves having to self-isolate as a result of their participation in hockey.
After a lengthy discussion that lasted close to two hours Kellgren ultimately said the board decided, given the rising case numbers in the Battlefords, that it was best for BMHA to itself pause until Dec. 17.
“With the rise of cases, and the concern in the community it was best that we be part of the solution and not the problem,” said Kellgren.
To this point, the protocols that were in place did seem to work for Battlefords Minor Hockey Association. However, game cancellations were getting to be an issue. Several games involving member teams ended up being postponed or cancelled due to COVID-19 isolating and other issues.
As one prominent example, the U18 Battlefords AAA Stars saw an entire weekend series with Tisdale cancelled, due to COVID-19 exposure on the other team.
“It was getting to be quite a bit for a lot of the kids,” said Kellgren. “It’s been a very topsy-turvy hockey season.”
Now the association now sits in a holding pattern, waiting for word from the province on when restrictions can be eased so they can start up again.
“In a way, it’s very disappointing. We believed the hockey community was doing the best they could, with masks and following all the new rules and doing all that in September, October and November. When the news came down, it was not surprising but you know still disappointing that the kids had to stop playing hockey.”
The plan is to refund BMHA participants based on losing a month, and Kellgren hopes that is the only refund they have to do. The hope is they can get the COVID-19 numbers under control and be able to get hockey back going in the new year.
For now, Kellgren said “let’s get the numbers down and everybody do their part, and you know we can get some hockey going in January. And if we have to go ‘til May, then we just extend the season. We’ve got to do what’s best for everybody involved.”