A newly formed hockey alliance is trying to help speed up the process of a return to hockey.
The United Hockey Alliance of Alberta, a community-based advocacy group made up of more than 80 hockey organizations, development companies and clubs – has put together a petition to get players and rinks open safely in the first quarter of 2021.
The petition was started a week ago and has more than 2,200 signatures. It includes a detailed plan for a return to play that the government could follow.
“Our objective with UHAA this quarter is to ensure that the mental health of our children is at the forefront of all conversations relating to reopening plans in Alberta,” the petition reads.
“Many families want their children reengaging in positive developmental programs and are concerned about the long-term consequences of continued isolation and restrictions.”
In the petition, the organization is asking for a multi-phased reopening of arenas. The plan to return includes safe standards and risk reduction strategies. The first phase of the plan is small group training or skill development, followed by team practice, three-on-three games before a full return to play.
Some of the safety measures include only two coaches on the ice to start, as well as kids arriving fully dressed and no access to the rink more than 10 minutes before an ice time. They also ask the government to consider 15 minute lag time between user groups in order to provide time to sanitize high-touch points in the facility.
In their return to play proposal, the group says that the first phase could start immediately, considering hockey and the rink “is safe than going to the grocery store or any other essential business at this time.”
The ‘Let Them Play’ movement held small protests at minor hockey rinks across the province over the weekend and on Tuesday. Rimbey held their own version Saturday and there were similar events in Bentley, Consort, Beaverlodge and Bonnyville on Tuesday.
Hockey activities in much of the province have been postponed since mid-December when the Alberta government passed new strict COVID-19 measures. In some areas, like Red Deer, Calgary and Edmonton, hockey arenas have been jettisoned since mid-November.
Hockey Alberta said Tuesday in a statement that they are still working with the provincial government on a return to play. If the government does not provide details on activities by Feb. 1, Hockey Alberta said they would be forced to make a decision on continuing league play.
“Hockey Alberta remains focused on working with government officials to develop a plan that will permit teams to return to practice and eventual game play and keep our youth active for their physical and mental well-being,” the statement read, in part.