'We’re just trying to create a program to give the children a chance to get back on the ice'
BARRIE, ONT. -- Minor hockey, as we knew it a season ago, has been put on hold, at least for the upcoming schedule as organizers implement significant changes before players hit the ice this fall.
On Monday, the Barrie Minor Hockey Association released its back to hockey plan. General Manager Steve Fontaine says it is built on the return policy based on recommendations from Hockey Canada and the Ontario Hockey Federation.
“We’ve created a four on four league which will entail one game, one practice a week,” says Fontaine.
When the season begins around October 24, it will put up to five teams in bubbles with each team made up of nine players and a goalie, balancing the teams based on where the child played last year.
On average, BMHA sees about 1,600 players take the ice in season, but this year, it expects about 90 percent to return.
Every game on the schedule will be made up of two 22 minute periods, and because referees won’t handle the puck, there are no face-offs, with one team starting with possession at the beginning of a period, icing or offside calls, and after a goal.
Penalties will also see players receiving penalty shots instead, leaving the box empty for the season.
And parents may have to resort to a coin toss to determine who gets to sit in the stands. Only one parent per player will be allowed at the game at one time.
“We’re just trying to create a program to give the children a chance to get back on the ice, to get back around their friends, and probably most importantly for their mental health,” says Fontaine.
When play starts in the fall, the association will be in Stage 3B of the return to play protocol with hopes of being in Stage 4 by January. If that happens, the league could look into adding travel for older players giving them draft exposure for OHL scouts.