Game action coming soon to Delta rinks without spectators

Hockey game action is on the horizon at local rinks, but don’t expect spectators in the stands or even dressing rooms to be opened anytime soon.

User groups are currently working with the City of Delta to finalize details that will allow cohort games to get underway before the end of the month. To avoid potential cross-contamination between groups, the North and South Delta recreation centres are being used exclusively for minor hockey this season. There is also some allotted ice time at Tilbury, Sungod Arena and the Ladner Leisure Centre.

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The Pacific Coast Amateur Hockey Association has released cohort schedules that will see three to four teams play a series of games before taking a break. A different cohort group will then be formed. At least in Delta, those games will be played without spectators and without access to dressing rooms for the foreseeable future.

“Our staff has been working very closely with both minor hockey associations making sure we are all working to the same objective,” explained Ken Kuntz, Delta’s director of parks, recreation and culture. “Until there is a vaccine and we are out of COVID-19, this is going to be a really tough time.

“We know parents want to see their kids playing and we understand that. We are certainly working with the associations to try and figure out some kind of remote coverage. Whether it be over the internet but that comes with its own set of complications. There are privacy rules and privacy legislation that has to be adhered to.”

Practices and evaluation sessions have been taking place over the past month. Players have been asked to come to arenas in near full gear. That protocol will continue even for the visiting cohort teams.

“One of the key factors in all our COVID-19 rules now is five squared metres (of social distance) per participant. That takes things like dressing rooms and not making them viable right now,” continued Kuntz. “So that’s why we are asking to come as prepared as you can before the game. There are other details too like don’t show up more than 10 minutes before a game. I give all the sports organizations lots of credit. They have worked hard to try and make sure they have real, robust safety plans.”

The Delta Ice Hawks will be playing its regular season opener without fans on Oct. 27 at the LLC. There is some good news for the junior hockey team that had to previously work around a maximum of 50 participants per cohort game that included all off ice help away from the players’ benches.

“We have received clarification that event personnel is not the same restriction on the 50 number, so you could maybe have 44 players, off-ice officials, coaches, trainers and safety officer as well. You can exceed the number for that activity,” added Kuntz.

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