PYETTE: A minor hockey season without tournaments? It's a possibility

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No hockey tournaments in 2020-2021?

That became a real possibility when the Ontario Hockey Federation put a hiatus on tournament registration this month and asked organizers to return any money that had already been paid to secure a spot.

“The thought was: Let’s put things on hold,” Tony Martindale, executive director of Alliance Hockey, said. “We didn’t have spring tryouts and the economic uncertainty means you can’t tap into the 17 to 18 families on your team to start some summer fundraising.

“It all trickles down to the participant and they’re the ones who have to pay the bills eventually.”

The Drew Doughty London Jr. Knights U10/U11 invitational tournament has quickly become one of the world’s top atom-aged events. It has already received applications from more than 20 teams and is still slated for Oct. 15-18.

“We’re proceeding as if we’re going to have it,” said Paul Doughty, Drew’s father and one of the organizers, “and if we can’t, then we already have all the stuff we need and we don’t have to get it next year.


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“For sponsors, we know how much restaurants and retailers are hurting and don’t expect to make what we have in the last two years. But we’ll still be able to get money into the hands of Ronald McDonald House (charity).”

2:36pm Pad B at Argyle Arena would usually be full of minor hockey players on Sunday afternoon. However all Hockey Canada sanctioned activities, including minor hockey league seasons, were cancelled days before this photo was taken on March 15, 2020 Derek Ruttan/The London Free Press/Postmedia Network

If the green light from health authorities is given by August, it would still be possible to hold the tournament in the fall at Western Fair Sports Centre. It’s easier to do it on short notice than moving it to a later date.

“The biggest problem with changing the date is securing the ice,” Doughty said. “That’s the issue. We need four pads the entire weekend. We’re still hopeful, but it’s not in our control.”

The first step is to get kids back on the ice. Martindale expects there could be some significant changes to keep within health and safety guidelines.

“It’s not just the AAA player, but we’re looking at how can we provide some form of hockey experience,” he said. “There are variables to keep kids safe and things we look at in municipalities and their rinks. Are they going to have increased staff? Is an hour rental going to be an hour and a half now to clean the dressing rooms properly between use? Will it be 5-on-5 or something different?

“We’re looking at adjustments to the game and also looking at it as an opportunity. Any time you deal with adversity, there has to be some good coming out of it.”

One of the suggestions on the table is keeping to a more traditional hockey season and allowing for participation in spring and summer sports.


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“We have to be more family-oriented,” Martindale said. “If the rinks open up in August, do we go right back in or do families deserve to have some summer and some time for a vacation?”

The atom pathway, part of Hockey Canada’s long-term player development model, was supposed to launch this fall. It mandates that no tryouts be held March through August and before or during the first week of school.

There also must be four skates/practices held before formal evaluations start. Team selection will already be under extreme pressure with no starting date in sight.

“If we come back to relatively similar registration, we’ll be fluid and react to it,” Martindale said. “That’s why we’ve been having a lot of calls and meetings. Maybe things that previously happened in the fall can go further in the year. We know there’s a huge economic impact on families and we are looking at ways to reduce costs.

“We have to take a serious look at everything.”