By Patrick Newhook/January 20, 2022
Dealing with the social distancing rules and all the other hazards and requirements of life with Covid means a whole lot of extra work for minor hockey volunteers such as Paradise Minor Hockey president Darrin Penney.
Paradise has one of the largest minor hockey organizations in the province, which means a lot of organizational and logistical planning for its executive members anyway.
“We’re an association with both a minor program and a girls’ program,” said Penney. “We offer house league and all-star level hockey. Kids learn to skate, which is (age) five and under all the way up to U-18 which is your last couple of years of hockey. We take part in the Don Johnson Hockey League. We have 700 plus kids going so it’s a pretty big outfit we’ve got.”
Prior to the Omicron surge which landed here just before Christmas, Penney said, the group was moving along fine and it seemed like another ordinary season, relatively speaking. They were even planning to hold some Christmas tournaments and have teams go to other areas to play.
But with the announcement of Alert Level 4, none of that happened. For now, the season has been put on ice.
“Nothing right now, were at a standstill,” said Penney, who was hoping to hear good news on Monday when the province held an update on the Alert Level. The news was essentially no change for another week.
Trying to manage a minor league during a pandemic hasn’t been easy. Penney describes what it’s been like to manage it all.
“It’s a lot of time, a lot of time and effort,” he admitted. “In a normal season it takes up a lot of time – there’s a lot of meetings. I think a lot of people don’t realize it, but in a COVID year it’s even more, stricter guidelines, there’s a lot of stuff behind the scenes that you’re going through, that you’re looking at, what you can and can’t do. It’s a lot to say the least.”
And the lack of play is hard on the players. Penney has two children, both of whom play minor hockey.
“It’s tough on the kids. Some of the younger ones don’t understand it, why they can’t get out and play at the sports,” he said. “It’s not just hockey, I guess, any sport or any activity that their used to, but I would mainly say disappointment. I think it was the safest thing at the time. Hopefully we can get back to some normalcy sometime soon and get the kids back on the ice.”
Most teams were around the halfway point of their respective league schedules when everything was halted. Penney is waiting for updates from Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador (HNL), the sports’ governing body, to see what to do next.
He doesn’t think the season will be on ice forever and is waiting for when they’re allowed to restart.
“’We’ll take our guidance from HNL obviously, and they kind of take advice from the CMO (Chief Medical Officer) office. Paradise Minor Hockey wouldn’t make a decision on that until we had guidance from HNL,” said Penney. “To cancel the season would be the last decision made, we don’t want to do that, we want to get as much of it in as possible… That is the hope though, to get the kids to finish the season.”