The following article appeared in The Waterloo Region Record on Mon., Aug. 3, 2020.
HMHA is working on hockey programing that will be implemented as we move through the different phases of the OHF's Stage 3 Return to Hockey Framework. Further details will be provided as this programing is finalized.
WATERLOO REGION — Don’t expect rep hockey in Ontario to return to normal until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine, says the Ontario Hockey Federation’s executive director.
The federation has released its Stage 3 Return to Hockey Framework, focusing on skill development and local tiered three-on-three and four-on-four non-contact leagues.
The Stage 3 model is not geared toward rep hockey, federation executive director Phillip McKee said.
“This model is not built on representative hockey,” McKee said. “This model is built on getting kids back on the ice and masses of kids back on the ice.“
The key focus is about player development. Getting kids back on the ice. Giving kids the opportunity to participate with other players. Building good physical and mental health of individuals and to begin hockey in a safe manner.
“If that results in us getting to Stage 4 quicker then that’s a great result.
”Tryouts, travel leagues, tournaments and year-end championships won’t occur until Stage 4, McKee said. That won’t likely come until the province moves into the fourth stage of its reopening plan.
“We got direction from the Ministry (of Heritage, Sport Tourism and Culture) in a call that we’re not going to move out of Ontario’s stage three until there is a vaccine,” McKee said. “Unless we’re able to produce a way to build no physical contact into the game or allow physical contact in some form we’re not back into traditional Stage 4 hockey. For the foreseeable future we are in Stage 3.”
Stage 3 has five phases with phase A in effect until Aug. 31, focused solely on skill development using 2019-20 rosters.
Phase B begins Sept. 1, bringing together players of similar skill level who reside within the same public health unit jurisdiction.
Phase B and C move into some non-contact three-on-three and four-on-four hockey with physical distancing on the benches and in dressing rooms.
Local leagues of up to 50 players, 10 per team, can be formed with location associations allocating players into tiered groups.
Phases D and E move into five-on-five play but won’t occur before November, McKee said.
There are many small towns which may not have the number of players or arena capacity to run a local league.
Any coaches registered with an association are eligible to go on the ice for training, McKee said.
The Ontario Hockey Federation has lobbied the province to enact similar emergency measures as British Columbia to protect its staff and volunteers from legal liability related to COVID-19 exposure.
Hockey Canada’s insurance program does not have an exclusion for communicable diseases so there is already good coverage in place provided members abide by all the public health protocols, McKee said.
“We’re asking for it as part of the broader sport community but we do have some associations who don’t feel comfortable going back on the ice until there is a limit to legal liability and that is their option. We’re not going to force people to go back into participation,” McKee said.