After a 2020-21 season marked by uncertainty, some return to normal is more than welcome by local hockey associations and Hockey Canada Skills Academies
You can feel the excitement in arenas from coast to coast to coast. The skates are freshly sharpened, the sticks are freshly taped, and Canadians celebrate the return of hockey.
After last season’s uncertainty, local hockey associations and Hockey Canada Skills Academies are relieved to see things back to normal.
“We plan tournaments and play exhibition games; everyone can’t wait to get going again,” says Trevor Hanley, coach of an U18 AA team in Martensville, Sask.
In Kenora, Ont., all Dave Tressor School Board programs had to be canceled last year due to COVID-19. But this year, hockey will return to Beaver Brae High School in February.
“We are really happy to relaunch the academy with our students,” rejoices Dave Tressor, deputy director of the school.
2020 was to be AHHC’s first year at Edwin Parr High School in Athabasca, Alberta. For students of 8e and 9 e year, this expectation has only fueled desire.
“As soon as anyone talks to me about the academy, I smile from ear to ear,” says vice-principal Brenna Liddell. I feel like a kid on Christmas Day. Our youngsters are having a great time, and the parents have adapted well. »
“I spent two weeks meeting the young people before the November holidays. We were talking about school and attendance, and I was asking them how it was going at the hockey academy. They were all saying it’s the best thing in the world. »
In Whitehorse, Porter Creek High School was able to hold its AHHC last year, but due to health restrictions, the focus was on skill development.
“I think the kids are looking forward to doing more this year,” says Amy Vermeulen, the program’s lead instructor.
The academy won’t take place until the second half of the school year, but students are already chomping at the thought of some return to normality for the hockey program.
“I see them in the corridors, says Vermeulen. They say they can’t wait for the semester to be over so they can finally start the hockey program. »
Same story in local hockey associations across the country. In Prince Edward Island, teams are back on the ice, with the main difference this year being that they can be in the arena longer before practices and games.
Blaine Fitzpatrick, coach of the U15 Women’s AAA minor hockey team in Charlottetown, knows that this weather allows his athletes to bond.
“They just want it to go back to how it was. They want to be able to chat and fool around together before going on the ice. We are getting closer. On a regular right to 30 minutes. The girls have time to have a little fun. There is a lot of excitement. We could eventually have a normal season, a season like before COVID. »
In Yellowknife, players miss tournaments.
“Normally, we play against teams from small municipalities, explains assistant coach at the M7 level Patricia Parker. Here in Yellowknife, or at home. We can visit their corner a bit, they can come to the swimming pool. The kids miss it a lot right now. »
Trevor Hanley says everyone is back on the ice in his association: the U7 to U11 teams are training, and the U13, U15 and U18 teams have already started playing games or are about to do so . Last year, practices were allowed in Saskatchewan, but you had to limit yourself to eight players on the ice.
“You had to be creative to make the kids have fun. Our coaches are looking forward to resuming normal training, having the whole team on the ice and being able to be behind the bench during games,” he says.
Certainly, the pandemic has been a mother of creativity and flexibility. With locker room restrictions in the Yukon, Patricia Parker has had to find new ways to help her mini-hockey players prepare.
“They provided fully dressed, but you had to help them lace and unlace their skates. It brought us closer to them, because during that time, we talk a little with each child, for example what they did at the weekend or what they ate. »
Blaine Fitzpatrick was inspired by the NFL: Last year, he created a detailed playbook of marking systems, which his players can study at their leisure.
“We have less time on the ice to review the lines, so it gives them the chance to study at home, when it suits them. »
Despite all that the pandemic has brought about, people across Canada have hockey to promote a healthy lifestyle.
“Mental health suffered a lot. Not just in Saskatchewan, but from coast to coast to coast, summarizes Dave Tressor. The hockey academy program is a great way to get students involved in sports and socializing. »
Now that our sport is backeveryone is preparing to reconnect with the best sport in the world.
“I’m glad to see that the rest of their time in minor hockey will perhaps be normal, and also to see them having fun on the ice with their friends,” said Fitzpatrick. They will work hard and improve, and who knows what the future will hold? I’m really happy for the young people. »