COVID-19 has had a great impact on many school activities, such as sport teams and canceled seasons.  However, the Riverside Hockey Academy and hockey team have been allowed to continue in a limited way. Hockey academy coach Jeremy Neufield and school team coach Shane Ford are following the PCHMA COVID-19 guidelines to give students an opportunity to get on the ice, not to play but to practice, skate and develop individual skills.

Before COVID-19, the hockey academy was a class to show team bonding and to improve skills while scrimmaging against each other, consisting of multiple kinds of drills, and conditioning on and off the ice. This also included fun Fridays, where the team would participate in different types of activities, such as climbing the Grouse Grind and going to the pool. Unfortunately, all of that has come to an end due to the pandemic. But with some changes, students could still stay partly involved.

Jeremy Neufeld mentioned that the association was in the “phase two” of the PCHMA restrictions. Following the rules means players can’t go into dressing rooms, must be fully dressed, and maintain physical distance at all times. Before entering the building, masks must be on until skaters get on the ice. Players’ contact with each other will be at a minimum before they get on the ice.

Phase two also includes restrictions when on the ice. Players must also be distant from each other. This order put into place changes the game in a massive way. “Drills will be more based on an individual’s skill and promoting physical fitness. So, what is really different this year is that there will not be any battling drills and scrimmages,” said Neufeld.  Fun Fridays have also changed dramatically; they now consist of fun, socially distant mini-games, such as California kickball and dodgeball.

With these on-ice restrictions, there were, of course, many opinions from the players.  Ethan Michaud, a Grade 11 student at Riverside had some practical insights on the situation. “I do enjoy some aspects of the current changes, such as how skill based the practices are now. More individual. Although, it does get annoying because you cannot scrimmage or do any battle drills. But is better than nothing.” Michaud also talked about how he feels about the restrictions. “It’s kind of sad because it was always a good time, going to other schools and playing games, such as Centennial. I also miss Holly, who would get a bus for the team and would take us to the Grouse Grind. There was a lot of team bonding and the team was much closer than it was before,” said Michaud.

As of now, the restrictions include no games against any other team, as well as no inter-squad games. And with the Riverside school team season come in the spring, it is uncertain what the season will look like.  Ford, the coach of the school team said that as of now it is unknown what the season will look like, let alone the tryouts.  Ford mentioned that Riverside Hockey follows the same rules as PCHMA so whatever Phase they are in, the team follows.

Although the restrictions have caused great changes to the academy and team, there have been no cases or outbreaks of COVID-19 in the academy. Thanks to the rules; even though they change the game, they are keeping students of Riverside safe.