Six months since the world was turned upside down from COVID-19, minor hockey is slowly trying to begin again in Regina and southern Saskatchewan.
“It was difficult because you haven’t skated in such a long time,” said Brayden Barnett, a player for the under-18 Regina Pat Canadians.
“You just have to get everything back that you had from six months ago. There’s also a lot of uncertainty to when we will get to play games again.”
The team’s training camp began during the September long weekend. The camp had a very different mandate this year.
“It was a limited, number of course,” said Tim Hammond, assistant coach for the Pat Canadians. “We could only have so many players and usually we would have a lot more, a significant number more.”
It’s not the only thing to change.
“Chairs are placed outside of the dressing room where the players get ready,” said Hammond. “There is a limit to how many boys can be in the dressing room at one time.
“It is also recommended that the players limit who they interact with off the ice to help limit sickness. That’s the tough thing about being a team. One person gets sick be it COVID, the flu or a cold, it runs through the dressing room. We want them to be extra safe this year.”
There have also been changes to weekly practices.
“We are limited; we are only allowed 30 people on the ice,” said Hammond. “The head coach will see who is available on the coaching staff and subtract it from the total number allowed.
“If there is room left he will ask Bantam (under-15) players, AP (affiliated players) players to come out and skate with us. Before there was not a limit.”
Daniele Bourthis lives in Kennedy, a town of 216 residents 176 kilometres southeast of Regina. The hockey season in nearby Wawota may not have begun for her 11-year-old son — it begins at the end of October — but she’s looking forward to her son getting back on the ice again.
“I’m very excited for the season,” said Bourthis. “Even if there’s no games, I am just excited for him to be active and see other kids.”
Bourthis strongly believes kids need this, that being socially active is good for their overall well-being.
“I truly believe children need to be back to being children,” said Bourthis. “The children’s mental health has been impacted. Not being around their friends and the stigma of not being able to be close to people.
“It has affected their mental health and being active helps. It’s also nice for them to be around their friends and see that other kids are doing it and that they are fine.”
“It would be nice to get back to some form of normalcy, said Hammond. “It would be nice to have parents come and watch their sons and daughters play hockey. We would just like to get back to being able to play games.”