By Darryl G. Smart
It may have taken plenty of discussion, but adult recreational hockey will return to Norfolk County arenas. Norfolk County council voted in favour of approving $263,000 in spending to hire up to 12 arena workers, which will allow recreational hockey to take place in the county this winter.
The money will pay for an extra arena staff member, moving the number from two to three. The extra worker will act as a greeter of sorts to take participant’s temperature and information. They will also be part of the cleaning and sanitizing of benches.
But, of course, with everything during the COVID-19 pandemic, modifications would have to be made to make returning to play as safe as possible, especially from an insurance standpoint.
“Our insurance company is all over us asking what we’re doing,” Norfolk Chief Administrative Officer Jason Burgess said. “It’s a sensitive issue because if they (Frank Cowan Co.) pull out because we aren’t doing our part, that will put everyone in jeopardy of having no ice. Rec hockey and minor hockey. We can’t have that.”
Burgess said it is money well spent.
Mayor Kristal Chopp was one of the ones feeling that the additional costs is not money well spent.
“There are kids that didn’t get to play baseball or soccer this summer. Now we’re talking about allowing adult recreational hockey,” Chopp said.
Because she didn’t feel adult recreational hockey is a priority, Mayor Chopp suggested a rate increase for those adult recreational users to offset the extra spending.
During the discussions, adult recreational hockey will allow five players on a bench at a time for social distancing purposes. At this point in time, dressing rooms won’t be open, so players will have to get dressed outside or before they get to the rink.
“That poses a problem for goalies,” Coun. Tom Masschaele said. “It’ll be awfully difficult for goalies to drive to the rink in their big pads.”
Another provision is that players will have to choose where and who they want to play hockey with. To stop the spread of COVID-19, players are asked to be part of one bubble (50 player pool).
Council, and Burgess said it will be up to the skaters to police themselves.
Ice users will now scramble to figure out numbers, so they can get their bubbles in order and start playing. Paul Reitz, who organizes the Waterford Rocking Chair League, hopes schedulers are ready for the nslaught of requests.
“They (council) do not understand that the leagues are not even sure they will have their ice time, even when everything is 100% safe to open, with the closing of the rec centre and the addition of a minor league,” Reitz said. “I suggested to them that if they at least came out with a tentative schedule, for when things do open, showing all the leagues what their time slot would be. There are lots of questions but very few answers or anything resembling answers.”