Provincial health restrictions put in place to curb COVID-19 spread had already put the hockey season on hold for New Sarepta.
The ice plant in the Alberta hamlet, operated by the New Sarepta Agricultural Society, needed repairs. The timeline and budget were already tight, and when the pandemic hit, it was the final straw.
“It’s a tough call, but we’re not left a whole lot of options right now,” said Taylor Knopp, president of the New Sarepta Agricultural Society.
The group made the difficult decision to shut down the agriplex, effectively cancelling the hockey season.
“I don’t know anybody that’s happy, but I think they understand in the long term,” said Corey Nordin, president of New Sarepta Minor Hockey.
About 500 people live in New Sarepta, which is about 50 kilometres southeast of Edmonton. Roughly 160 kids play hockey there.
“There’s not a lot to do out here,” said goalie Kyla Lane. “It’s a pretty small town. So that’s it, that’s kind of the pastime out here: playing hockey.”
“Hockey is incredibly important,” said Kelsey Good, who is a hockey player, volunteer and hockey mom. “It’s much more than just physical activity for us.
“I have two children who play, my husband coaches on two teams, I sit on the board as the fundraiser, and both my husband and I play in adult league.”
In the short term, this is basically a lost season for advancement, especially for the older players.
“It’s going to be potentially detrimental to development,” Nordin said. “You might lose some kids.”
But the hamlet remains hopeful there will be a next season and possibly some assists.
“You’ve got to stop the bleeding some time and kind of turn around and lick your wounds and just see what’s best for our community and our facility,” Knopp said.
“I really would love the government to sit down and look at the importance of facilities like this and programs like hockey and other sports for kids and how important it is for their physical and mental health,” Good said.
“It’s kids, it’s adults — everyone is missing the game.”
— With files from John Sexsmith, Global News