Although the Ponoka Minor Hockey Association (PMHA) says they’re disappointed they missed their chance for some time in the arena this month, they understand why the town needed to remove the ice when they did.
Hockey Alberta announced on Feb. 2, that it was officially cancelling the rest of the 2020-21 season due to ongoing provincial restrictions. The decision came after Premier Jason Kenney’s announcement about the tiered easing of restrictions made it uncertain when athletes would be able to return to competitive play.
At the time, it seemed the earliest the players would be able to return to the ice for games would be March 1.
“We of course are disappointed as everyone knew Feb. 1 was a pivotal date,” said Ryan Gillespie, PMHA vice president in an email.
“If we did not receive good news with COVID-19 restrictions by then there was a 99 per cent chance a lot of arenas would pull ice and some associations would be forced to cancel the season.”
The arena complex had been shut down for two months due to provincial health restrictions, and the Town of Ponoka stated in a press release on Feb. 1 that it would start removing ice from the arena starting that week.
The town says the early removal of ice will allow them to install a new ice plant sooner than expected and that the arena will be opened earlier next season, with ice ready for Aug. 1, 2021.
“When that was announced we completely understood the Town Of Ponoka’s decision to take out the ice due to costs and completing the maintenance,” said Gillespie.
“It made sense. Also, the trade off was we would see ice in August, so we can hit the ground running next season.”
The frustrating part is, a few days later, the provincial restrictions changed and it was announced that players could be on the ice for development as early as Feb. 8.
“It was really heartbreaking. Ice was out in Ponoka by then and in many nearby facilities,” said Gillespie.
“Hockey is a place to have fun, grow future leaders, build players’ confidence, see friends, stay fit, improve mental health, and can be a safe place for some,” he said.
“It teaches life skills through competition, being a good teammate, how to handle wins and failures. So as you can imagine, it’s heartbreaking for everyone this season was cut short and the above opportunities were lost.”
Gillespie added that PMHA is “beyond excited” for next season.