NaBloPoMo – Day 4 – Hockey in a Pandemic

Tonight I had a hockey game. I’m just playing on one team this year instead of my usual two. That’s in part because one of my two teams folded a year ago and I hadn’t gotten around to finding a new second team last season. And this year, hockey is a little different, and one thing that’s recommended is to not play on multiple teams, so as to minimize the number of different people you come into contact with. They also made smaller divisions, so the number of people you play against is also smaller. I believe this is to make contact tracing easier, should it be needed, as well as just to have fewer people in contact with each other.

They also adapted the rules to reduce contact. Technically it’s always been a non-contact league, but some amount of contact usually happens during a game, and they wanted to reduce that. So they changed things like:

  • during a face-off, the centres can only play the puck with their sticks – no blocking the other player with your body
  • during a face-off, only the two centres are allowed inside the circle and the other players cannot come into the circle – they have to wait until the puck comes out of the circle – or at least close enough to them that they can reach it with their stick without physically going in the circle
  • all face-offs have to happen at centre ice or at the face-off circles close to the goalie. No face-offs happen at the dots just outside the blue line anymore because they don’t have circles so you need the circle for the ref to know that the other players are far enough away during the face-off
  • the offensive zone is much bigger – you still have to get the puck over the blue line before any of your players, but once in the zone, the centre red line magically becomes the border for the zone (so the opposing team has to get the puck past that centre line to get the puck out of the zone). I believe the idea with this is to minimize the number of face offs that happen and speed up the game.

In additions to changes in game play, there’s also a bunch of safety protocols in place, such as:

  • players take a COVID survey before each game, check in with a staff member to ensure they’ve done the survey, are given some hand sanitizer, and then wait in a line up outside until exactly 20 mins before game time, when they are allowed to enter the building. This minimizes the number of people in the building at one time and gives staff time to sanitize the dressing rooms between games.
  • you also only have 20 minutes to get out of the dressing room after the game, and no showers are allowed.
  • masks are mandatory while in the building, other than when playing.
  • no spectators
  • there’s one way flow through the building marked on the floors, including one gate for entering the ice and another one for exiting
  • and my personal favourite, plexiglass barriers to separate players on the bench
Hockey in a pandemic
Kim and I have played hockey together for many, many years. This will definitely go down as the strangest season we’ve experienced!

As you know, I love hockey. I really missed it during this past summer1. And so I’m trying to really savour every game this season – COVID numbers are on the rise and I know that at any point it could get shut down again, so I’m really feeling grateful for every game I get to play.

  1. There was a summer season, but they played 4 on 4 with a maximum of 8 skaters on the bench, so the team I usually join in the summer didn’t have room for me on the roster. []

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