A cloud of uncertainty hangs over the upcoming hockey season.
The COVID-19 pandemic halted the NHL season in mid-March and abruptly put minor hockey on ice in Orillia and throughout the land.
Now the question on the mind of many players, parents and coaches is: Will it be safe to return to local rinks in the fall?
That is a question the Orillia Minor Hockey Association (OMHA), like all hockey organizations, is currently grappling with.
At a virtual board meeting this week, various scenarios were discussed along with possible new protocols and regulations.
“I want our members and the community to know that we are totally committed to having a hockey season,” OMHA president Randy Gardy told OrilliaMatters.
But what that season might look like is anything but certain.
Gardy said it could involve empty arenas, a shortened season, might mean no travel and no tournaments and, for sure, will feature many new rules.
“Certainly, we have to rely on what the government tells us, but we are committed to ensuring the health and safety of our players and coaches,” said Gardy.
“But we don’t have a playbook on this. It’s impossible to predict what will happen.”
Hockey Canada, the sport’s governing body, also will play a key role in what hockey might look like in the 2020-21 season.
This week, Hockey Canada published an open letter to Canadians about a “return to hockey.”
“Hockey Canada and its members are diligently working on a multifaceted return-to-hockey plan that will happen when, and only when, provincial and territorial governments and health authorities deem it safe to do so,” notes the letter.
“The health and safety of everyone involved in the game will determine when we return, not our desire to get back on the ice. When our country is ready, Hockey Canada will be ready.”
Gardy agrees with that sentiment.
To help ensure Orillia is ready, he is asking people to step up - now - and volunteer to coach. New coaches are desperately needed, he says.
In addition, the OMHA has decided to postpone the purchase of new jerseys - for at least a year. The organization had put out a call asking for bids on new jerseys for all house-league and rep teams.
But with an expected dramatic decrease in revenues - the OMHA typically earns tens of thousands of dollars annually by hosting tournaments - it was decided to delay the expenditure for at least a year.
For more information, visit the minor hockey website. If you have any questions, or want to become a coach, email email@example.com