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No faceoffs, no checking, no spitting

Minor hockey adapts to pandemic conditions

Hockey in Norfolk County this fall will look much different from what people are used to, at least for the first two months.

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That means no faceoffs, penalty shots in lieu of time in the penalty box, and no spitting or blowing your nose free-style onto the ice.

These deviations and more are among the protocols minor hockey associations in Simcoe, Waterford and Port Dover have adopted to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 now that play is about to resume.

Other important changes include an expectation that players will show up to arenas in Waterford and Port Dover ready to play. Dressing rooms are unavailable to the public till further notice.

Martin Jefferson, president of the Norfolk Minor Hockey Association and the Simcoe and District Minor Hockey Association, said these measures and more help maintain the social distance required to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

Local minor hockey groups are taking their cues from the Ontario Hockey Federation, which is providing advice on returning to play during a time of pandemic. OHF protocols account for the fact that arenas – like grocery stores and other high traffic areas – have stepped up sanitation efforts to ensure that frequently-touched surfaces don’t become vectors of transmission.

“We’re trying to minimize down-time between games,” Jefferson said Tuesday. “The more parts of the building you touch, the more cleaning you have to do.”

Along with NMHA and SDMHA, signatories to the new approach include the Port Dover Minor Hockey Association and the Waterford and District Minor Hockey Association. The new rules also have the endorsement of the Ontario Minor Hockey Association.

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Hockey registration in Simcoe, Port Dover and Waterford got underway online Monday and runs till Sept. 7. Rep hockey and house-league play get underway Sept. 8, with the precautionary rules remaining in place until at least Oct. 31.

Play in the three centres will be restricted to Waterford and Port Dover for the time being.

Jefferson said Norfolk County does not have the staff at this point to discharge the extra sanitation required to include Talbot Gardens in Simcoe in the mix. Meanwhile, the arena at the Simcoe Recreation Centre has been re-purposed as the new home of the Simcoe Seniors Centre.

This spring, the Port Dover and Area Arena was converted into a temporary infirmary in case the number of COVID-19 cases locally overwhelmed area hospitals. The wave didn’t materialize, so the backup medical facility was dismantled earlier this summer.

Delhi Rockets Minor Hockey and the Langton and Area Minor Hockey Association have declined to collaborate with Simcoe, Waterford and Port Dover. They will continue to operate their own independent programs.

Delhi minor hockey encourages parents to notify them of their intention to register their children. Langton hockey officials are weighing their options and will report back soon.

“We are currently reviewing the details of the OHF framework and working with OMHA and the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit to answer some questions before completing details of our return-to-hockey program,” the Langton minor hockey website says. “As we know, many are excited to learn what hockey may look like to start.”

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At least for the first two months, there will be no faceoffs in Waterford and Port Dover because this brings players and officials into close proximity with each other without masks.

In lieu of faceoffs, defending teams will take possession of the puck in their own end after play is whistled dead. Play resumes once they bring the puck into the neutral zone.

Teams that have been scored on will bring the puck up ice across the red line. This is similar to the resumption of play in soccer after a goal.

Also as a social-distancing measure, no body checking will be allowed. Parents and players will be expected to apprise themselves of these and other rules as the public-health emergency persists.

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