As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, many Canadians hunger for some normalcy, hoping for the return of hockey.
Some leagues have taken tentative steps to resumption, such as the QMJHL which began regular-season play earlier this month only to see much of the league forced to shut down due to COVID-19 outbreaks on teams and provincial government orders in some parts of the province. Other leagues, such as the CCHL and EOJHL have tried scrimmages, allowing each club to partner with one other in non-contact play. Elite minor hockey went the route of bubbles, but again with no contact, while local minor hockey programs have focused on training and development.
All this leaves the fan wanting more.
So how about a little hockey humour courtesy of TSN?
Or what about a hockey movie? Bleacher Report compiled a list of “must-see” movies for the hockey fan. You can check it out here. What do you think? Is there a film missing?
Fans (as well as players, coached, etc.) have to remain hopeful that hockey will return eventually to rinks near and far, hopefully sooner rather than later. Elite junior leagues currently appear to be targeting December or January re-starts, while the NHL is also looking at January 2021 to begin its next season.
Over in Europe, regular play has begun. For example, subscribers to DAZN can watch games from the KHL online.
That Maxville Mustangs and the Glengarry Pipers of the Eastern Ontario Super Hockey League (senior ‘A’ men’s) will play an exhibition scrimmage on Saturday, October 24, in Alexandria.
Due to COVID-19 pandemic health and safety requirements, tickets must be purchased in advance, and the number of spectators permitted will be limited to 50. No ticket sales will take place at the door. The wearing of a face mask is mandatory.
For ticket purchase, you can reach out to Bubba Wensink by telephoner at 613-330-0474 or by e-mail at email@example.com
The teams are scheduled to warm up at 8 p.m., followed by the opening puck drop at 8:30 p.m.
The non-contact game at the Glengarry Sports Palace will be the first action of the season for both club, as regular play remains on hold.
The Lancaster and District Curling Club had hoped to open a modified season this month, but that was contingent on sufficient full-time members signing up. That didn’t happen, so the club’s executive has decided to delay the start of the season until January in hopes that membership numbers increase.
In light of operating costs, the Lancaster club needed “at a minimum, 80 full-time memberships committed and paid” by the set deadline of October 15.
“Thank you to all who have responded to our call but unfortunately there were insufficient memberships by the deadline and after reviewing the income/expense data, and considering the rising COVID cases the season will not begin as planned.”
In addition to a modified curling season, Lancaster is aiming to resume its Learn to Curl program in January.
Club president James Doonan notes, “By shortening the curling season, we will be better able to control losses. As well, during this period, we will review and update the control measures for COVID previously communicated.” For more on the changes to curling this season, please see this previous post.
“The club is committed to having play this season so long as authorities allow. We are aware that it is a major social aspect of many people’s lives in the winter months and we hope to provide a welcoming and above all safe experience for everyone.”
James Doonan, club president
Full refunds and/or pro-rated refunds are (and will be) available.
On Monday morning, the Township of South Glengarry announced the temporary closure of the arena in Williamstown, along with several other township buildings, in online posts that referenced “health and safety reasons.”
Later in the day, the township clarified.
“Acting under the advice of the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, the Township of South Glengarry temporarily closed three of its facilities to the public on Monday, October 19th, 2020. The closures of the Municipal Office, Fire Hall in Lancaster, and the Char-Lan Recreation Centre were a direct result of a positive COVID-19 test of an employee.”
Township of South Glengarry statement
The announcement went on to reassure residents and users of the facilities: “The Township has maintained a strict contact tracing regime for all individuals entering these facilities and all relevant information has been provided to public health authorities for investigation and follow-up. At this time, any person requiring follow-up from the EOHU has been contacted. Township staff have since deep cleaned all of the noted facilities.”
When the arena in Williamstown opened for the season on September 21, strict health protocols were implemented, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Among them was capacity limits, required wearing of a face mask, and signing in for contact-tracing purposes.
The Char-Lan Recreation Centre is slated to reopen “for ice times only” later today (October 20) at 5 p.m.
Last Saturday in Williamstown, the junior ‘B’ Char-Lan Rebels hosted their first action of the season, skating to a 5-3 victory over the Alexandria Glens, in the second half of back-to-back non-contact scrimmages. With the win, the Rebs completed the weekend sweep of their northern rival, as the teams are set to collide again this weekend.
On the heels of a 3-2 win in Alexandria Friday night, Char-Lan maintained the pressure on the Glens an evening later in Williamstown, opening up a 2-0 lead in the first period, en route to prevailing at the final buzzer 5-3.
Tanner Gillies and William Zhang backstopped the Glens in the loss. Alexandria goals were netted by Nico Pozzebon, Kyle Joly, and Zachary Bigras. Picking up the assists were Nicolas Ouellette, Kyle Green, Tyson Allard, Pozzebon, and Alexandre Saul.
Taran Fiacco scored the game-winner for Char-Lan 14 minutes into the third period, on a power play, set up by Alexxi Paquette and an unidentified player. Cuyler Molinaro iced the victory in the late going, with an unassisted tally.
Earlier goals for the Rebels were scored by Ryan Grant (unassisted), Andrew Dixon (from Joseph Samson and Alexandre Elie) and Samson.
Ceili Picard came into the game midway through, backstopping the win, taking over for a young prospect who started.
“Home it was just nice to be back on home ice!! Call it a game, call it a scrimmage, it’s still the #BattleOfGlengarry. Another tight one! The Rebs take it 5-3! Thanks to the Township of South Glengarry for accommodating our fans tonight! #Safe #socialdistanced #GoRebsGo #EOJHL”
Char-Lan Rebels on Twitter
Here’s a video of the Glens during the warm-up.
Next scrimmages set for October 16, 17
On Friday, the Glens will again host the Rebels, with the teams switching to Williamstown for Saturday night to complete the four-game scrimmage series.
Both games are sold out. Anyone arriving without a ticket will be refused entry due to COVID-19 spectator limits.
The games can be viewed online, with a subscription to Hockey TV.
I am told that after these skates, the teams will focus on independent training and development, as much remains on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In other developments, former Rebel Rylan Iwachniuk has been traded from his current team, the CCHL Cornwall Colts, to the Nepean Raiders, also of the region’s junior ‘A’ hockey league. The Raiders also got Jack Parker and a player development fee in the trade, while Cornwall received Tyson Tomasini in return.
Iwachniuk was a mainstay of the Char-Lan lineup last season, skating in 43 games and notching 17 points. The forward who hails from Ingleside is 18 this year.
You may have heard last week that the Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL), arguable Canada’s top minor hockey league, pulled the plug on all activities this fall, suspending programming until January 2021. However, that announcement is league-specific and does not apply locally, as Hockey Eastern Ontario has reiterated that programming, already modified, under its jurisdiction will continue this fall.
As it stands, local minor hockey organizations, such as those in Alexandria and Char-Lan, are already operating under a heavily modified system due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to strict health and safety protocols, no games are permitted in an effort to limit player contact.
The focus of fall programming is on training and development, with the hope that game play may resume come January.
Remember ParticipACTION from when you were a child? The health-and-fitness-promoting organization, a Canadian non-profit, is still going strong, advocating for us to all be active for the betterment of our health and well-being.
When it comes to children’s activity levels, ParticipACTION notes, “Research shows that children who don’t participate in organized sports exhibited higher emotional distress, shyness, and social withdrawal later than their counterparts.” The full 2020 report card can be accessed here.
Sadly, the news is not good, as the report card “gives children and youth a D+ for overall physical activity and a D+ for sedentary behaviours.” The report adds, “Less than 1 in 5 children (5-11 year-olds) and youth (12-17 year-olds) in Canada are meeting national movement behaviour guidelines for physical activity, sedentary behaviours and sleep.”
The report goes on to highlight the importance of family working together to promote activity and health. Among the ideas for parents are…
Be an active role model
Prioritize active transportation (e.g., walking, cycling, wheeling)
Create a family media plan that includes screen-free times
Encourage more outdoor time
ParticipACTION has oodles of information and resources on its website. There is currently a program running called the Great Big Move, with prizes up for grabs to help encourage families and groups to be active.
The organization also offers a handy mobile app.
With the challenges of this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Eastern Ontario Health Unit recognizes that some families and individuals may not be comfortable engaging in organized sports.
“Is your family opting out of organized sports and activities this year? That’s okay. Take ParticipACTION’s Active Family Pledge and discover new and exciting ways for the whole family to be active together.”
The North Glen-Stor Minor Hockey Association recently announced its player of the week, an initiative to celebrate the skaters within the organization in what is a very different kind of season for the sport.
The latest honoree is Xavier Gauthier, a first-year member of the U9 group (novice) this season. According to the announcement, the youngster attends École La Source and “is fast on his skates and has a shot that can’t miss. Xavier loves playing hockey games, and with all the amazing development he’s getting this year with NGS coach Greg Claus, he’s sure to be a force to be reckoned with once he faces his opponents later this season. Xavier credits his love of the game to his amazing coaches, coach Mitch, coach Jeff, and of course, coach Dad (Denis Gauthier).”
Like all minor hockey associations, this fall has seen numerous changes to operations, primarily due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The fall schedule is one of training and development, with all activities centred at the rink in Finch. There are no games permitted. As well, there are strict health and safety protocols in place.
Traditionally, NGS activities are split between ice surfaces in Finch and Maxville, and teams would play league games against squads from across the region, in one of two leagues, the Lower St. Lawrence Minor Hockey League or the Upper Canada Minor Hockey League. The hope is that “normal” operations can resume come January.
Another change taking effect this year is the name applied to each level of play. Gone are words such as atom and midget, replaced with age-level designations.
In the days leading up to last night’s first exhibition scrimmage of the fall, the Alexandria Glens announced the team’s player leadership group for the 2020-21 junior ‘B’ hockey season.
Braden Legue, who hails from Green Valley, will serve as the team’s 2020-21 season captain. The 19-year-old defenceman last season notched 15 points in 41 games.
Assistant captains will be Kyle Green, Nico Pozzebon, and Nicolas Ouellette. Green, an 18-year-old forward from Clarence, was with the Winchester Hawks last season (14 points in 44 games). Pozzebon is 17 and calls Bourget home. With the Glens last year, he scored at greater than a point-a-game pace (45 pts, 41 GP). Rockland 18-year-old Ouellette is a blueliner entering his second season with the Glens. Last season he recorded 16 points in 44 games.
In other player news, Alexandria recently announced a pair of new player signings. Forward Yan Bessette, age 17, skated for the Clarence-Rockland Crush last season, though he was also called up to the Glens for one contest. Defenceman Jacob Massie, from Lachute, was with Le Sommet Faucon through the 2019-20 campaign, and the 18-year-old has committed to the Glens this year.
Head coach Carl Robillard added some help behind the bench, Ryan Hand, owner of HandMade Hockey, joined the club in the capacity of assistant, bringing a “wealth of knowledge and experience” to the Glens.
The 35-year-old from Ottawa last played competitive hockey in the 2016-17 season, when he suited up for the LNAH Sorel-Tracy Éperviers. It marked his third, and final, campaign in Quebec’s semi-pro league. As a junior, he spent four season in the QMJHL. He went on to play for a number of minor professional teams in the USA before returning to la belle province to wrap up his playing career.
For the last two season, Hand served as an assistant coach with the Hawkesbury Hawks of the CCHL.