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Local hockey organizations grapple with Return to Play

Local hockey organizations still waiting for more direction on how to proceed
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The North Bay & District Trappers AAA Hockey Association will not be holding tryouts for the 2020-21 season. At least not yet. 

In a release sent out on Monday, the board of directors agreed there were too many unknowns in regards to running programming in September due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"The North Bay District Trappers AAA Hockey Association wishes to announce that after careful consideration of the OHF/NOHA Return to Play Guidelines they will not be in a position to have tryouts in order to form their AAA teams or offer other programming until it is determined that the OHF/NOHA can enter into Stage Six of the OHF/NOHA Return to Play Guidelines," the release stated. 

"The Association thanks all players that have participated within their association in the past and for all players and parents that expressed an interest in our recent online registration. 

"We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause to our players and parents and we look forward to the opportunity to operate our teams and return to the ice in the future."

Meantime, the North Bay Minor Hockey Association (formerly West Ferris Minor Hockey), which operates house league along with rep teams at the A and AA levels, is also figuring out how hockey will be presented this fall. 

"As NBMHA continues to move forward to prepare for the 2020-2021 hockey season, we have been working in conjunction with our governing bodies to prepare a program for our members that follows the OHF’s Return to Hockey framework (ohf-return-to-hockey_0731). Our goal continues to be to get our Trappers back on the ice as soon as it is safe to do so," the North Bay Minor Hockey Association Board stated on its website. 

That Return to Play Plan for hockey does not allow for traditional five-on-five action until at least October. The OHF recommends limiting roster sizes to nine skaters and one goalie, to maintain physical-distancing guidelines; no body checking; no tryouts, but rather player placement “based on category of participation last year." 

Those recommendations include players playing within their own health unit district which eliminates affiliation or integration between leagues at this time. 

Getting hockey back onto the ice has been a complicated process during the pandemic.

Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Sport,  addressed the issue during a media conference in North Bay recently. 

"In terms of return to play, we support over 60 provincial sport organizations," noted MacLeod.  

"Everyone from hockey, lacrosse, soccer, basketball to baseball, we are going to continue to work with them together but also individually with their return to play protocols. We will always be guided by public health and that will first and foremost be our concern."

See related: Return to play a complicated process

She says this issue has become a daily process for her ministry. 

"The Chief Medical officer did say he has looked at things differently now that we have entered Stage 3," she said.  

"I think our big push as Ontarians right now, we are getting our kids back in the classroom and obviously there is an entire component to that as well that deals with sport and recreation." 

As for hockey, a majority of players have returned to ice practicing with private instructors at Memorial Gardens. 

Chris Dawson

About the Author: Chris Dawson

Chris Dawson has been with since 2004. He has provided up-to-the-minute sports coverage and has become a key member of the BayToday news team.
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