COVID-19 restrictions prompts cancellation of Kent Minor Hockey season

Ice hockey player. © Can Stock Photo / lsantilli

A Chatham-Kent minor hockey association is putting an early end to the season as a result of tougher restrictions in the Red Zone of Ontario’s COVID-19 Response Framework.

Board members with Kent Minor Hockey recently made the decision to cancel the remainder of the season.

According to President Carl Herder, the pandemic has made planning and offering programming a logistical nightmare. The season initially started a month late and the organization saw just over 600 kids sign up, compared to their usual 850.

“We were fortunate,” he said. “We went from early October right close to Christmas time when we [went into lockdown]. It’s certainly been a disappointing year. Not only for us, for all major sports. Soccer and baseball never even had a chance to play last year. We get the pain everyone’s feeling, that’s for sure.”

Prior to Chatham-Kent entering the province-wide lockdown at the end of December, the organization was allowed to have 20 kids on the ice in addition to coaches and trainers. Despite Chatham-Kent recently moving out of the lockdown and into the Red Zone, Herder said it wouldn’t be feasible to move forward.

“When the province announced we were going into the Red Zone, our restrictions then limited us to only 10 kids on the ice. So the hours that we had scheduled — we had 66 hours a week scheduled for our hockey teams — that allowed each child to be on the ice for two one-hour sessions. With the new restrictions, they’re down to one hour only per week,” Herder explained. “That’s half of what parents pay for.”

In addition to the restrictions currently in place, Herder said another concern was the uncertainty of just how long Chatham-Kent will be in the Red Zone.

“The indication from the municipality was that the province would likely reassess us after two weeks. That takes us into the first week of March and the ice comes out normally at the end of March,” he explained.

According to Herder, cancelling the season was a very tough decision for the board to make. While trying to plan a hockey season during the pandemic has been difficult on the organization, Harder said he really feels for the families and kids who have been impacted.

“It had to be very difficult,” he said. “Kids staying at home, not having anything to do. That’s why we were so happy to offer, at least twice a week, the kids got out of the house, they got to play hockey, something they love to do. Now, we can’t even offer it.”

Herder will now spend the next few months monitoring the situation and crossing his fingers that hockey will be able to return in the fall. However, he said he knows it’s unlikely that it will be business as usual at that time.

“Usually, we have spring tryouts for our travel teams in late April, May. Now, The Ontario Minor Hockey Association and the Ontario Hockey Federation have said were not going to be able to do that until at least the end of September or October,” explained Herder. “We know it’s going to be another late start again next year.”