B.C. club sports leagues grapple with new COVID-19 restrictions

Young B.C. athletes, their parents and their teams are trying to work out how to move forward amid new provincial restrictions meant to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Youth sports were already operating under a number of protocols as a part of viaSport’s Return to Sport Phase 3.

On Thursday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry added a ban on spectators and a ban on traveling outside one’s home community for sport to those restrictions.

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“It’s a real challenge for us to manage that,” Dustin Crockett, said president of Port Moody Soccer Association of the spectator restriction, adding the club’s jurisdiction ends at the edge of the field.

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The city has been assisting, and parents have already been asked to maintain physical distancing and wear masks, he said.

Until now, teams had been competing using a cohort model, which Crockett said appeared to have been working well.

The club was still waiting from direction from viaSport about what will happen to inter-association play, Crockett said, adding he’d like to see the province give leagues some advanced notice of future changes.

“We want to be as safe as possible, and if there was clear evidence that this had become an unsafe sport we would not want that to continue.”

The Vancouver Island Minor Hockey Association has cancelled all games for two days, as it works out what do do next.

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President Jim Humphrey said the association pulled the trigger Tuesday night, after feedback from parents.

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“A lot of people just did not want to travel, a lot of parents had a lot of problems,” he said.

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With games on hold and championships scrapped weeks ago,  individual local associations are using their ice time for fun play.

“They just carry on with their ice time and just do three-on-three scrimmages, four-on-four scrimmages, just make the time on the ice fun,” he said.

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“The season I think comes down to just trying to maintain and get through the season as best we can.”

However he said the league was still having problems with youth who were participating in more than one sport, potentially picking up the virus elsewhere and spreading it to teammates.

For the Ridge Meadows Minor Hockey Association, the new restrictions won’t mean much of a change for players.

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Executive director Dave Lige said the association had opted months ago to forego inter-association games.

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“It was difficult, especially because we were going against the trend. But we also anticipated come late fall, early winter, we would see a rise in COVID numbers,” he said.

The ban on spectators won’t change much either.

The league is already live-streaming practices and games for parents, who can often be spotted glued to a phone or tablet in their vehicles outside the rink.

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“Providing that opportunity for our parents to still watch from a distance, to stream practices to stream games, was just providing that healthy outlet for our families to enjoy the experience as much as they could,” he said.

Lige said the association always has the option to re-engage with other teams if COVID numbers cool down.

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But for the time being, the strategy has allowed them to provide parents with a stable play schedule, and most importantly, keep the kids on the ice.

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“Ultimately though, our first and foremost priority right now is really just keeping the kids in the game,” he said.

“The competitive piece, that’s really second, that’s icing on the cake at this point.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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