Williams Lake Blue player Hayden Grinder flips the puck deep into the Williams Lake Red Ravens’ zone during last year’s Williams Lake Minor Hockey Association’s Jeff Alexander Memorial Midget Hockey Tournament. (Greg Sabatino photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Organizers move forward with COVID-restricted hockey season in Williams Lake

The executive has been working hard throughout the summer to come up with a plan

While the Williams Lake Minor Hockey Association executive is working and planning to make the upcoming hockey season as normal as possible, new president Mike Rispin said, overall, everyone should expect a completely different year.

“It’s a bit of a crazy year to become president,” Rispin said of the laundry list of health and safety guidelines WLMHA required to follow prior to hitting the ice for its 2020/21 season.

“We’re trying to make it as competitive and normal as humanly possible, but there will be a lot of controls in place.”

As per requirements set out by viaSport, BC Hockey and Hockey Canada, phase two of the ‘return to hockey’ plan requires two metres physical distancing, no non-essential travel, no group over 50 people, modified play and no or limited spectators. The also recently-announced (Aug. 24) Phase 3 of the return to sport plan is slated to progressively loosen restrictions.

In Williams Lake, Rispin said the executive has been working hard throughout the summer to come up with a plan that will work for the WLMHA.

READ MORE: WLMHA elects new board, discusses upcoming season at virtual AGM

Players arriving at the arena will be required to enter through the ‘arena side’ entrance.

“There’s a right and a left path,” Rispin said. “One side for in, the other for out.”

Initiation and novice division practices and games will take place at Total Ice Training Centre, which has its own COVID-19 safety protocols in place, he added.

All other divisions will play at the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex (CMRC).

“Parents and kids are going to have to remember to bring their own water bottles, and players should come as dressed as they can,” Rispin said. “We’re insisting it for younger age groups and recommending it for older. There will also be social and physical distancing in dressing rooms enforced and, that means, unfortunately, a lot of the camaraderie and horseplay among teammates is something that’s going to be frowned upon and really controlled.”

Rispin said kudos go out to the staff at the CMRC and Williams Lake director of community services Ian James for working with the WLMHA.

“Ian and his staff have been absolutely phenomenal in helping us, in working with us providing the signage, and doing whatever works for us as long as its within the guidelines. They’ve done an awesome job.”

Asked whether games will be allowed, Rispin said house teams will be allowed to play against each other.

“There may be some rule changes within those games,” he said. “Maybe they will be three on three to limit contact and faceoffs, but we’re waiting for BC Hockey to give us the rules.”

Teams, meanwhile, will be made up of 16 players in house and, up to 18 in the rep system.

“We’re going to use two dressing rooms, and we’re going to do what we can with social distancing on the benches. The bench situation is probably going to be the one that’s harder to social distance.”

As for the rep side of things, Rispin said tryouts are slated to get underway on Sept. 8.

“I’ve got no rep games lined up outside of Williams Lake because you can’t travel,” he said.

Normally, the WLMHA also has several players from the 100 Mile House and Quesnel areas take part in rep tryouts on both the boys’ and girls’ side, which Rispin noted will still be allowed.

“They won’t be able to practice with a team, though, until BC Hockey signs off on the residential waivering — that’s when a city like 100 Mile House doesn’t have a rep team they can apply to play in the next closest association, which is us — but BC Hockey is not signing off on those until the next phase,” Rispin said. “So they won’t be able to practice or play until that happens.”

A link to the WLMHA’s return to play plan is available at www.wlmha.ca.



greg.sabatino@wltribune.com

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