The Orillia Ball Hockey Club (OBHC) is preparing to welcome players back to the rink this spring, as long as the province moves into the orange ‘restrict’ zone in the coming weeks.
“We are expecting to run a spring season as scheduled. We are definitely eager to get active,” says manager Adam Woolfrey.
The OBHC believes that having players return to the rink next month is essential for mental and physical wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Being able to get out as soon as possible is important for everybody, and we can assure that we can do it safely in compliance with the health regulations,” Woolfrey said.
The protocols that are in place at the OBHC include operating with only four-team divisions, mandatory screening before arriving at the facility, only one spectator per minor is allowed to attend games, no spectators for anyone over the age of 18, no physical contact, masks are required at the facility, roster capacity is capped at 13 players, and high touch points have been eliminated from around the facility.
Despite the long list of protocols, Woolfrey says players are still excited to return to action after sitting out the winter season.
“We have had a lot of interest in our spring season. People miss playing hockey,” he said.
“People are still excited to play and will do whatever it takes to be able to play again.”
Woolfrey is confident that once the ball drops for the opening face-off, the OBHC will be able to run leagues safely with no interruptions for the rest of the calendar year.
“As long as we all work together the way we have been, then we think we can run all year without any hiccups,” he said.
The ball hockey season starts for adults on Mar 7., and for youth on Mar. 22., players can register here.
With the recent financial hardships that many families are facing due to the pandemic, the OBHC is also putting a lot of focus into their Ontario Growing Up Through Sports (OGUTS) program, which helps underprivileged or disadvantaged children get involved in local sports.
“We believe that the ability to play organized sports at a young age shouldn’t be dependent on your financial situation, and shouldn’t be a barrier to engaging kids in activity that promotes healthy well-being,” Woolfrey said.
The OGUTS program provides funding to children who are specifically from the Orillia community to play sports. To date, the OBHC has been able to sign up 3,000 kids in Simcoe County for ball hockey through the program.
Funding for the program comes from local businesses in the community that make a donation of $900.
“The donation puts six Orillia community kids from our schools and our homes through the program, so it goes right back into our community,” Woolfrey explained.
Out of appreciation for the donation, the OBHC provides local businesses with a four-by-eight-foot rink board advertisement for a one-time fee of $300, which covers production and installation.
“We are very fortunate to be able to provide this program and get disadvantaged kids in our community playing,” Woolfrey said.