A low-commitment hockey program in Airdrie has incorporated several changes this year due to COVID-19.
According to Donna Fuller, a program administrator with AMHA, the association's recreational program for youth aged seven to 11 will again run every Sunday this winter from late October to late February. Fuller said the program is an ideal choice for parents who know their child is interested in playing hockey, but would rather not commit the time or money that comes with being on a competitive team, or are simply in search of a low-commitment physical activity.
“We all know hockey can be quite competitive,” she said. “With this recreational program, it’s more geared towards those kids who, maybe they’re not the best skater and they don’t want to have to commit to going to practice two times a week. They just want to be able to go out and have fun once a week.”
To abide by Alberta Health Services’ (AHS) return-to-sport guidelines, the program will look very different this year compared to prior years. According to Fuller, the players will be placed in set cohorts of 45 to 50 players, split among three teams of 16 to 18 players each. The kids are expected to get ready at home and show up at the rink ready to put on their skates and play.
Only one parent per player is allowed to watch each session, Fuller added, and there is no lingering or loitering in the lobby areas.
“You come in, watch and then leave right away,” she said.
Parents should also make sure to read AHS’ guidelines and answer a health and screening questionnaire before each session, Fuller added.
“As far as coming into the rinks, Airdrie’s arenas have some very strict guidelines in place,” she said. “If their child has any of those symptoms, we ask them to not bring them that day. We take attendance for every ice time, so we know that if someone does have COVID-related symptoms, we’ll follow AHS guidelines and protocols.”
According to Fuller, the weekly program costs $390 per participant and includes 16 on-ice sessions. The sessions typically include a brief warm-up, followed by scrimmages. Participants also take part in four introductory power-skating sessions
“It’s not so much like your tiered hockey teams, where they practice skills and development,” Fuller said. “Last year, we had four teams, so they just played mini-games amongst the four teams.”
Pending the state of COVID-19 in the province, the program might also include various extracurricular activities like a pizza party, helmet decorating on Halloween and a movie night at the Roxy Theatre to cap off the season, Fuller said.
“Because it’s low-cost, low-commitment, it’s more on the fun side,” she said. “Some of the [activities] might have to change due to COVID and the restrictions."
This year, Fuller said, AMHA received a $5,000 grant from Hockey Alberta's Every Kid, Every Opportunity program this year, which will help subsidize the extracurricular activities.
In addition to the on-ice sessions and extracurricular activities, the program fee includes an AMHA jersey the players get to keep, Fuller said, as well as individual and team photos and participation medals.
Registration for the program is open until the end of September at airdriehockey.com. However, Fuller said AMHA will accept registration until January in case any late-comers wish to join the second half of the program.