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Rotary Place opens only one rink as pandemic keeps players on ice

'It’s going to be a totally different season than what we are used to but we are trying to keep it as normal as possible,' says local hockey official

There will be fewer hockey players taking the ice this fall, there has been such a drop off in demand for the game that the City of Orillia has decided not to put ice in on one of the two Rotary Place pads.

Recreation policy and permitting supervisor Seanne Goodfellow says if the demand for ice increases city officials will contemplate installing the second ice pad at Rotary, but it would have to be done in a cost-effective manner.

Orillia Minor Hockey Association (OMHA) President Randy Gardy doesn’t believe they will be needing the second pad this season, they had a more than 20% decrease in registrations.

“I’ve been with minor hockey for 25 years and we’ve had problematic years, but this is head and shoulders the absolute biggest nightmare we’ve had,” Gardy said.

The returning OMHA players had their first skate of the season last Wednesday, before any games can begin the players will have to go through at least two weeks of an assessment period that allows executives to disperse players into teams within their maximum 50 player bubbled divisions.

As for protocols, coaches are forced to wear a mask on the bench, players wear masks in the arena until they are about to step onto the ice, players are asked to be dressed before arriving at the rink but can put their skates on in the dressing room, only one parent is permitted inside the arena per player and teams are asked to clear the arena within 15 minutes after each session.

As for games, there will be two 22 minute periods of either four-on-four or three-on-three, however, Gardy can’t say for sure when the games will actually begin.

“We want to start our games around Thanksgiving, it all depends on how quick we can work all the kinks out,” he said.

“We aren’t there yet, but we’re close.”

As for the rep players, Gardy says they aren’t going to be traveling anywhere this year, instead, they will be grouped together to play in their own tier of a traditional house league divisions.

To get to this point where Orillia hockey players are back on the ice, has taken a lot of work for OMHA executives, but it’s all been worth it according to Gardy.  

“One of our executive members probably spent 30 hours on it in the span of three days, just putting everything together and creating bubbles,” he said.

“At the end of the day, we knew there wouldn’t be anything school sports-wise, soccer, and baseball were cancelled in the summer, we have to at least go the extra mile to get these kids out and exercising this winter.”

Gardy is hoping the season can be relatively smooth sailing and go the full distance, however, he isn’t overly confident that will be the case.

“If we make it to the end of October, I’ll be surprised. Let’s hope I’m wrong,” he said.

As for the Orillia Girls Hockey Association (OGHA), the Hawks skated for the first time this season last night. 

The OGHA has seen a 30% decline in the number of players who signed up this year, making it difficult for president Darrin Dunn and the executives to group teams and hold tryouts.

“It’s going to be a totally different season than what we are used to but we are trying to keep it as normal as possible,” Dunn said.

OGHA will be playing at the Brian Orser Arena this year and are hoping to get games scheduled for sometime after the Thanksgiving weekend.

Unlike the OMHA, the OGHA is hopeful their teams will be able to travel this season and face off with teams from other organizations.

“We’ve had discussions with the (Simcoe Muskoka District) Health Unit about playing within loops because, for the most part, we are all small centres,” Dunn explained.

Inside their loop, the Hawks would potentially travel to Barrie, Midland, Clearview Township, Huntsville, and Collingwood.

“If the girls stayed within their own association and played against each other week after week, that would get pretty boring,” Dunn said.

Dunn is trying to remain positive, however, like Gardy, he has considered the possibility another shut down could cut their season short.

“I think all organizations have had that conversation to prepare for another shutdown or restrictions changing. Our mantra has been 'keep it as normal as possible,' but this is going to be a season of flexibility and patience. We have to work together within our organization and with other organizations to make this a positive season,” he said.

The OGHA still has spots open for players who would like to join late, the organization is in need of more goalies as well, Dunn said. Visit their website for more information. 




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