When the Alberta government announced on Saturday that it was adding “limited school and minor sport training” as well as dance and gymnastic classes to Step 1 of the province’s staggered easing of COVID-19 restrictions, it left some small-town arenas in a tough spot.
“It was really exciting news, but it also caused a lot of questions,” said Kevin Serfas, president of the Golden Suns Athletic Association in Taber.
“We had to start phoning town councillors and rec boards saying, ‘Hey, things have changed, we will start using ice.'”
Serfas said Taber town council decided at a meeting on Monday to keep its ice, and young players in Taber will hit the ice as early as Wednesday.
Under the revised guidelines, practices are allowed for indoor and outdoor training — but not games — for players 18 years and younger, with a maximum of 10 total participants, including coaches.
Physical distancing must be maintained between players at all times, and coaches are required to wear face coverings at all times.
“It’s not 100 per cent what we want, the way we want to do it, but it’s something,” Serfas said. “Getting the kids back on the ice and doing some development work, socially distanced, it’s a good thing.
“We’re just happy for the opportunity to try and put something together, of any kind.”
But some municipalities aren’t going to continue with ice times.
Magrath Minor Hockey posted on Facebook that it would be removing the ice from its arena, and both Claresholm and Nanton have made the same decision.
The town of Stavely factored in nearby Claresholm and Nanton when choosing to keep its ice in.
The arena in Stavely is operated by the Stavely Agricultural Society, and president Ryan Hall said they wanted to make sure kids in the area had a chance to play.
“We’re glad that we’ve done what we’ve done, because it’s letting the local kids go on the ice, and that’s what our association’s been about for as long as I’ve been a part of it, and for many years prior,” he said.
Hall said Mother Nature also bought them some time with frigid temperatures while they were making their decision.
“We looked at the forecast — that was kind of the deciding factor — because of course the plant is quite expensive to operate if the weather is warm, and February’s forecast is not calving weather, so that worked out,” Hall laughed.
The Lethbridge Minor Hockey Association has not announced its plan for development programming, with a notice on its website on Tuesday saying it is “working diligently to secure ice with the City of Lethbridge” after the city had previously cancelled that availability.