EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article was prepared for Hockey News North by Michelle Guzzo, secretary of the Sault Major Hockey Association.
Any given evening or weekend, stop by the local ice arena to see young players improving their skills
and playing Canada’s game. Locally, the community has done an incredible job, adapting to life under COVID-19 restrictions and creatively implementing a plan that allows hockey to continue.
In most other communities in Ontario, hockey has been shut down. Sault Major Hockey Association and the
Soo Peewee Hockey League have both been able to run shortened sessions and provide our local youth with something that resembles normal.
Fortunately for our community, while many activities have gone virtual or been cancelled, hockey has been a healthy outlet and a constant for our young players. Yes, hockey has had to adapt, but even with the adaptations, young players are still playing the sport they love.
Parents registered their players without tryouts or competition and Sault Major Hockey Association was able to find everyone a place to play. The players still get a team atmosphere, skill development, competition, and exercise. As per the new COVID restrictions, there is no intentional body contact allowed, but fortunately the teams still have very competitive games. Players have to play within their assigned cohort, but they are still playing hockey!
Even with all the changes, the coaches and players have made it work. Parents and grandparents, for the
most part, have to stay away from the rink because of seating capacity limits. Players are not to arrive more than 20 minutes before scheduled practices or games, and they are not allowed to socialize inside the rink afterwards. What seems like small changes have kept players playing, coaches coaching and officials officiating!
This certainly does showcase what everyone working towards a common goal can achieve when partnered with a little luck. A healthy working partnership between the City of Sault Ste. Marie, Algoma Public Health, Sault Major Hockey Association, our local officials, and all the parents and players following the rules has made what many people around the world dream about a reality here in Sault Ste. Marie.
What we have to remember is, our work is not done; we still have another month of play scheduled. We still have to remain vigilant in following the recommendations of Health Canada so that our youth can continue to play the sport they love! Vaccines are coming and the warm sunny summer days of June through August will soon be upon us. Then another hockey season will start in the fall.
Looking into the future, we are all hoping for a season that seems a lot closer to normal. We are looking forward to team gatherings, enjoying the setting of the ice arena, grandparents in the stands proudly watching their loved ones playing hockey, hockey tournaments both in town and out of town, and playing for that elusive championship win!