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Ailing ice plant and COVID-19 restrictions mean no hockey season for Alberta hamlet

Click to play video 'Struggling New Serepta rink closes, effectively ending hockey season' Struggling New Serepta rink closes, effectively ending hockey season
The New Serepta Agriplex already needed repairs so when the pandemic hit, it forced some tough decisions. John Sexsmith has more on how COVID-19 and an ailing ice plant forced the New Serepta Agricultural Society to cancel the hockey season in its hamlet – Jan 18, 2021

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.

Read more: World’s Longest Hockey Game seeking COVID-19 exemption to hold fundraising event

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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.”

Click to play video 'Millet and Wetaskiwin minor hockey associations team up to save the season' Millet and Wetaskiwin minor hockey associations team up to save the season
Millet and Wetaskiwin minor hockey associations team up to save the season – Sep 1, 2020

“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.

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“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.

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“It’s going to be potentially detrimental to development,” Nordin said. “You might lose some kids.”

Read more: Edmonton minor league sports hope to mitigate season troubles during COVID-19 restrictions

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.

Click to play video 'Minor hockey in Edmonton will return this year, but will look different' Minor hockey in Edmonton will return this year, but will look different
Minor hockey in Edmonton will return this year, but will look different – Aug 14, 2020

“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.

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“It’s kids, it’s adults — everyone is missing the game.”

— With files from John Sexsmith, Global News