There might be hockey at Orillia’s arenas this year, after all.
The Orillia Minor Hockey Association (OMHA) is planning to offer a “modified” hockey program this fall and winter.
After a board meeting earlier this week, the association has decided to offer a 25-week three-on-three or four-on-four modified hockey program for local hockey players. The plan is to run from Sept. 9 until March of 2021.
Due to the continuing restrictions related to COVID-19, there will be no rep (travel) programs. Instead, local players will play against one another in the traditional age groups; those who played rep last year will play against their fellow rep players, while those who played house league will play against their fellow house-league players.
OMHA president Randy Gardy said the move - which is subject to approval from several governing bodies - is an attempt to ensure there’s hockey in Orillia this year.
“We want our members to know we’re committed to having hockey,” said Gardy. “We want them to know even though it’s going to be a modified program, there will be hockey.”
Gardy said prior to the board’s decision, the organization published a survey on its website. He said of the approximately 200 people who participated in the survey, only two said they wouldn’t play hockey this year as part of a modified program.
“They just want to get out and play,” Gardy said, in summarizing the survey results.
He said the OMHA is hopeful that 500 youth will sign up to play hockey. Typically, the local organization has 650 to 700 skaters registered to play.
He stressed nothing is set in stone.
Approvals are required from the provincial government, the municipality, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, Ontario Hockey Federation and Ontario Minor Hockey Association.
More information related to costs and other details will be provided on the OMHA website Aug. 1.
The hope is registration will begin on Aug. 10 and will close on Aug. 24. The only way to register for the program is online and with a credit card. The office will not be open to accept walk-in registrations.
Those who register this year will receive a $50 discount due to the modified program. There will be no refunds provided for the 2019-2020 season that was ended abruptly by the coronavirus.
Gardy said after crunching the numbers, it was determined refunds would work out to “less than $15 per player,” so it was determined the discount would be a better approach.
In order to ice the up to 50 teams that are expected to participate in this modified program, volunteer coaches and trainers are needed.
If you were an assistant coach or assistant trainer last year and want to take a team this year, email email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org for house league and email@example.com for rep hockey.
Gardy said if restrictions are lifted and things return to normal, the OMHA would do its best to switch gears and go back to a more traditional program.
For now, the local volunteer-run organization is awaiting word on ‘return to play’ restrictions and guidelines from governing bodies.
“We have no idea what protocols might be in place but we will adhere to public health guidelines,” said Gardy.
For more information, visit the website.