Hockey will resume in the Eckville Arena the upcoming season, but will look different for the time being.
After a meeting of the Eckville Minor Hockey Association (EMHA), the arena board and the figure skating board, it was decided the ice plant will begin on Sept. 14.
“In some form or another kids will be skating in Eckville and hopefully by the end of September,” said Charles Hainsworth, president of the EMHA in a phone interview.
He explained there will be new policies, procedures and protocols, as well as a new business model for operations, as minor hockey and figure skating prepare to get back on the ice.
EMHA will host the bantam and midget female hub teams, as well as initiation, novice, atom and peewee boys teams.
Eckville will not host a bantam or midget boys team as numbers in these age groups are low. These players will be released to join other teams.
“I want to be able to give those kids the right amount of time to get in rather than we try to make a team like we’ve done in the past and then we don’t have a tea and now other associations won’t allow these kids to come in because they’ve already made their teams,” explained Hainsworth.
For now, the season will consist of practice and in-house scrimmages with no chance of the possibility of games until December at the earliest.
Hainsworth says the association will try to get cohorts set up within the hub system, which includes Caroline, Rocky Mountain House, Spruce View, Bentley, Rimbey, Sylvan Lake and Eckville, but that will depend on approval from Hockey Alberta.
“We want to be able to get the kids the outlet to grow the love of the game, to still have that chance to develop… You don’t get a whole lot of opportunities to do anything else, to stay active, to get your exercise,” Hainsworth added in regard to how schools and other extracurricular activities running this year.
With the new models and procedures set for this year the arena is going to be run differently.
Full guidelines have yet to be put into place, but for somethings they have a general understanding of what the changes are going to look like.
With the new operating model the association will no longer be able to use volunteers to man the concession or help clean to keep operating costs down to align with health measures.
Ice time now needs to be rented by the hour to compensate, compared to the usual model of paying registration and arena fees and filling in the gaps with volunteers.
Hainsworth says it will be “a lot more expensive to play hockey in Eckville this year.” Exact prices were undetermined at the time of interview as the association continued to navigate the new model.
Currently the EMHA is working out how much ice needs to be rented in terms of number of practices per week for each age group, as well as being careful to not discredit the possibility of games later this season.
“We thought we were going to go back to just keeping everything the same as we did last year,” Hainsworth said, noting nothing is going to be normal this year.
“Nothing is going to be normal any time soon and I don’t think that’s just our arena, that’s going to be everybody’s.”
Registration for the 2020-21 EMHA season is officially closed, although he is anticipating some changes as some families may have been waiting for official word on the season to sign up their players and as the new pricing rolls out.
“… Families budget for that and when you change that last minute some people are going to have to pull out. It’s not the same economy we had in the past,” said Hainsworth.
Figure skating in Eckville will also go ahead this season.