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Sylvan Lake Minor Hockey developing ‘cohort play’ for 2020 season

SLMH hopes to see a shorten season to happen, but can’t say for sure that will happen

Sylvan Lake hockey is returning for the 2020 season, with numerous changes aligning with Alberta’s COVID-19 guidelines.

The hope is to see a shorten regular season, beginning sometime later this year, according to Donovan Gemmell, senior vice president of the Sylvan Lake Minor Hockey Association.

Until a potential season returns, the teams will be sticking to the guidelines set out by the Province and Alberta Health Services.

Gemmell says the season will look completely different from any previous season, especially in the beginning.

“In the beginning especially we will be staying within our cohort groups. Hopefully we will see regular play return later in the year,” he said in a phone interview.

Cohort groups for sports have a maximum capacity of 50 people, this includes coaching staff.

Team sizes shouldn’t be too much of a problem, according to Gemmell. He says the teams normally have a roster far below the maximum allowed by AHS.

“We are doing our best to still provide a worthwhile hockey experience to our players,” Gemmell said.

The season will begin with physical distance skates, according to Gemmell. This will hep to get the player used to keeping two meters a part wherever possible.

Following the skates, SLMH will begin to develop cohort groups. From there the cohorts will work on skills and small scrimmages will be set up within the cohorts.

SLMH often has multiple teams in each age division, coupled with small team sizes, scrimmages will likely be easier to set up.

“We have tools in place to help our players develop the skills the need, even in this climate,” said Gemmell.

Minor Hockey is also following the rules set up by the NexSource Centre and the Town, concerning COVID-19 safety.

These regulations include restricted access to the change rooms and limiting time in the facility.

“We will be asking our players to come 10 minutes before their practise to change, and then they have roughly the same amount after practise.

“This will help to ease the traffic moving through the NexSource Centre at any given time.”

Gemmell expects the number of players returning to play this season will remain relatively the same, even with the ongoing concerns about the pandemic.

There are some parents who have concerns about sending their children back onto the ice, and he says SLMHA is doing its best to assuage the fears through open communication.

“Safety is our utmost concern, and its important to have these physical distancing practises in place,” said Gemmell.

Registration with SLMH is now open, and the first ice sessions will begin on Sept. 8.