BOW VALLEY – Children and youth can return to practicing sports and athletics in limited school and minor sports capacities starting this week under step one of Alberta’s four-step system to ease health restrictions.
Saturday's (Feb. 6) provincial announcement added that all games are prohibited, but for Canmore Minor Hockey Association (CMHA), over 300 of its members have the opportunity to return to the ice for practices and lessons this month.
“I know everyone just wants what’s ultimately best for kids and they’re all working together for that goal," said CMHA president Michael Hay. "It is very fluid and it continuously changes, but we are very excited to get the opportunity."
Starting Feb. 8, children and youth will also be allowed to participate in lessons, practices and conditioning activities for indoor and outdoor, team-based, minor sports and athletics. All games continue to be prohibited. (3/6)— Dr. Deena Hinshaw (@CMOH_Alberta) February 6, 2021
The announcement included a set of rules to return safely, such as all participants must be 18 years old or younger, except coaches and trainers; coaches and trainers must wear masks at all times; participants must wear masks, except when engaged in sport; all participants must maintain physical distancing from each other at all times; and there must be limited access to change rooms, allowing for accelerated arrival and departure, for emergencies and for washroom use.
"Despite this small change, one thing remains the same: we all need to be cautious and make safe choices to limit the spread of COVID-19,” said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw in a press release.
“It is vital that everyone involved diligently follows the health measures as we move forward. Together, we can continue to reduce the spread and keep protecting our heath system.”
CMHA, along with Hockey Alberta and other minor hockey associations, have advocated to Alberta Health Services (AHS) for a return to sport since Alberta's four-step announcement at the end of January, which did not allow for youth sports in any capacity.
Prior to Saturday's announcement, Hockey Alberta said it was concluding its 2020-21 season for tiered, AAA and AA leagues. However, it will review the new information.
"Hockey Alberta is reviewing what is now allowed and will update our members ASAP with details on Hockey's Path Forward," a social media post stated.
Hay added that CMHA has also worked diligently with the Town of Canmore to secure ice at the rec centre over the coming months.
"We’ve had great communication in an effort to make sure that if we were able to come back and play the game, the Town of Canmore [would have] ice available right through until the end of May," said Hay. "Things change constantly, but we theoretically could play hockey for another three months."
Saturday's announcement also confirmed that additional measures established in step one will also be permitted starting on Feb. 8.
Province-wide health measures will occur in four steps based on COVID-19 hospitalization benchmarks. For step one, 600 hospitalizations and declining is the benchmark, step two (450 and declining), step three (300 and declining), and step four (150 and declining).
On March 1, the province will revisit step one and its hospitalization numbers to announce whether additional measures will be eased. The province said moving between steps will happen in three week increments to assess the impact on cases.
As of Tuesday (Feb. 9), hospitalizations were 427.