Hockey returned to the Woolwich Memorial Centre this week, as the township reopened one ice pad there. That move follows the reopening last month of the St. Jacobs arena.
The township has new procedures in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Likewise, user groups such as the Woolwich Minor Hockey Association have their own new protocols. It’s made for an altered experience.
That was noticeable this week as municipal staff controlled access by hockey players and other users at the WMC.
With minor hockey back on the agenda, the township was attempting to limit numbers and encouraging players to change before arriving at the facility to minimize exposure in change rooms, for instance.
“For the kids, we are recommending come as dressed as they can be,” said recreation manager Jennifer Horndl. “We will let them into the building about 15 minutes prior, but everybody has to come in as a group, so maximum one parent or guardian per child to assist if they need any help with tying their skates and stuff.”
With the WMC also operating their pool and fitness centre, to keep traffic controlled and straight to the specific area, hockey teams are now required to enter from the rear of the building. The township is also ensuring user groups follow prescribed protocols, and enabling contact tracing.
“The trainer for hockey would check everybody and make sure … like minor hockey has their own protocol of a pre-screening and contact tracing. So, they have to maintain a list of everybody that’s comes,” said Horndl. “We screen them. We take them through the process for the questions, just to make sure. And then they’re responsible for doing the list of their team.
“Everybody sanitizes and then come in with their masks on.”
For players, change rooms are open with reduced numbers to ensure physical distancing can be met. For parents, a section of seats is open in the viewing area that is disinfected and cleaned by the fogger after each session has finished. The running track, however, remains closed.
The township also released a video demonstration of what hockey players will experience when they come back on the ice. Horndl notes that the rules and protocols put in place are subject to change with the state of COVID-19 and new information that may develop.
At the WMC Tuesday afternoon, Michael Birmingham, an assistant coach with Woolwich Minor Hockey , says the return to play has been positive.
“It’s been pretty good. We’re only on the second day so far, but I think the kids are very excited. There was a lot of smiles coming out of the arena,” he said. “Everybody followed the protocol the way they were supposed to, and it went very smooth. The arena and the township staff have been great.”
From his perspective, registration numbers have been close to normal years, though some kids from outside the area who might opt to play in the township “have stayed in their own public health unit to play.”