The top focus of the Ponoka Minor Hockey Association (PMHA) is the safety of its players, coaches and others as it looks to be back playing sometime this season.
“Hockey Alberta’s number one focus is safety for their participants,” said PMHA president Mark Richter in an interview.
“They are working with Alberta Health Services and following their guidelines as close as possible. PMHA will have the same focus.”
Hockey Alberta released its “Return to Hockey” document at the end of June, three months after Hockey Canada shut the door on all activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic and in response to municipalities shuttering arenas across the country.
PMHA has just opened registration for the 2020-21 season and Richter explained the plan is for skates to be hitting the ice sometime between mid-to-late September.
“Hockey Alberta is going month-by-month right now and cohorting is the focus right now, as we are entering the development phase of the Return to Play plan,” he said.
“There will be no official games. Instead, 3-on-3, 4-on-4 and 5-on-5 scrimmages will be encouraged during this phase to keep the players engaged.”
And with no games, that means officials won’t be needed, so Hockey Alberta has pushed back its certification clinics until at least the middle of October with other details on procedures to be followed when games resume yet to be announced.
Richter added that Hockey Alberta hasn’t indicated when actual games could be played.
“We really don’t know when things will look better with the pandemic,” he said.
“If the numbers stay how they were in the spring, I would suspect we would be heading into the Alberta government’s Phase III, which would then open things up.
“The good news is that both the WHL and AJHL have announced a return for December. This will have a trickle down effect to minor hockey as now AAA elite teams will know their dates for tryouts and their season followed then by AA elite leagues and then minor hockey.”
As for ice availability, Richter has heard the arena ice could be ready in mid-September and that cleaning and other procedures are still being worked on.
“There will be more time in between ice times to allow for cleaning,” he said.
“I would also suspect, because it is a public building, they will have to minimize how many spectators and people are inside and people will have to physically distance.”
The PMHA has also partnered with Cross Ice Developments to hold a conditioning camp during September, with an optional fee to take part.
“Cross Ice has shown that they provide an excellent skill development camp and clinic, so we are quite happy to use them,” Richter said.
“It will be great for our players to utilize them. After this, we will then set up our cohorts — if not already set up from the camp) — then we will start tryouts, if and when they are needed.”
For more information on local registration, head to www.ponokaminorhockey.ca. To check out Hockey Alberta’s “Return to Hockey” document, go to www.hockeyalberta.ca.