It is expected that the ice season at the Hay River arena will begin at about the same time as usual this fall, although with some adjustments for the various sports because of the coronavirus.
No date has yet been set for the arena to open, said Stephane Millette, recreation director with the Town of Hay River.
“As of right now, I think that it shouldn’t be too far off from the normal start to the ice season,” he said.
Millette noted the ice usually goes into the arena in early to mid-October, but has even been installed as early as late September.
However, this year’s installation of the ice will depend on what kind of adjustments the various sports need to make in light of Covid-19.
“Once the user groups have a better idea of the hoops they have to jump through and once they give us an idea of the types of accommodations they need at the facility, then in our next few meetings we should be able to narrow down what we think are realistic timelines for putting in the ice and for their return to play,” said Millette.
The recreation director and representatives of the arena user groups met on July 23.
At least one representative from each of the regular ice user groups were there, including figure skating, speed skating , minor hockey, recreational hockey, women’s hockey and oldtimers’ hockey.
“It was more of a status update,” said Millette. “And then confirming with everybody that there’s going to be more communication and co-ordinating needed this year to confirm when we can put the ice in, and then see what our weekly schedule is going to look like this year. We’re expecting changes to it because the ice user groups need to change their routines to align with Covid restrictions and best practices.”
Another meeting has been set for Aug. 6.
“We’re hoping that everybody can come back with either a confirmed and approved return-to-play plan by that point or at least a draft that we can have an idea of what their return to play is going to look like,” said Millette, noting that sports may develop the plans in consultation with territorial and/or national sports organizations.
The plans have to be approved by the NWT’s chief public health officer.
They will include such things as the number of athletes allowed on the ice and the coach-to-athlete ratio.
Pennie Pokiak, president of Hay River Minor Hockey, is also optimistic the ice season can start at about the same time as usual.
“I am hopeful,” she said. “We’re looking at towards the end of September or early October, which is typically the norm for us. We don’t typically get on the ice until October. So hopefully the ice gets in. It can’t get in soon enough for us.”
Pokiak noted that every association has to get a plan approved by the NWT’s chief public health officer.
“We have to submit a plan and make sure that we’re mitigating the proper risks that we need to be and following the proper rules and trying to keep everyone as safe as we can,” Pokiak added.
Millette noted he will also submit a plan to the chief public health officer and the local environmental health officer to confirm the building capacity of the Hay River Community Centre, because community centres are allowed to have up to 50 people under Phase 2 of the Emerging Wisely plan.
“But this community centre, it’s basically four buildings,” he said. “So I need to confirm with them if it’s 50 people for the entire complex or if it’s 50 per venue. I’m thinking it’s more 50 per venue and that’s the proposal I’ll be putting forward.”
Those four different sections are the arena, the curling club, the swimming pool and the upstairs section consisting of the walking track and the multipurpose room.
Currently, the community centre remains closed to the public, except for access to the Sub on the Hub takeout.
Under current restrictions, the swimming pool won’t reopen until after the peak of an anticipated second wave of Covid-19.
The curling rink is run by the Hay River Curling Club, which was not represented at the July 23 meeting.
“I still have to co-ordinate with them because we only have one ice plant and it feeds both ice surfaces,” said Millette. “Once the ice plant is running, then they can do their own thing, but we do talk to them to align when their season starts with approximately or at the same time as the other ice surface will get rolling.”