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“The goal of the hockey community — not only in Calgary but everywhere — is to prove we can do this and be safe and hopefully we can expand out and have larger cohorts,” Kobelka continued. “There’s no guarantee of that, but that’s the vision.”
To determine who’s in what cohort, age-groups will go through skill-based evaluation done by physical distancing — including time trials and manoeuvring through pylons and other skating drills — to ensure most players are playing with the right group.
“In the end, it might be a better evaluation than usual,” Kobelka said. “And a longer one.”
Regardless, the kids want to play.
Despite the COVID-19 crisis, the numbers are still strong in Hockey Calgary’s stable — down from the usual 14,000 by only eight to 10 per cent.
“We’re pleasantly surprised by that,” Kobelka said. “It shows a passion people have for hockey and a willingness to get back on the ice.
“But we need to ensure we’re following the safety protocols — ensure we’re wearing the masks when we come into the rink and ensure we’re staying physically distanced when we’re not on the ice.”
Safety protocols also include a mandatory daily symptom screen and contact tracing using TeamSnap’s new ‘Health Check’ feature.
And although the province is allowing a maximum of 100 spectators in arenas, each facility will dictate the number of fans they’ll allow in the stands.
“That has created some challenges within the hockey community,” Kobelka said. “People want to see their son or daughter play. Unfortunately, Hockey Calgary doesn’t own, operate or manage any facilities, so we have to fall in line with the decisions of each of the facilities.
“I’d love to be playing normal hockey. It’s difficult and stressful on everybody. We’re trying to educate everybody. We need to follow suit and be safe.”