Vernon’s Kal Tire Place. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)

Vernon’s Kal Tire Place. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)

COVID-19: North Okanagan parents want arena access as minor hockey resumes

Rink occupancy is limited to 50 people during the pandemic, leaving no room for spectators

As minor hockey games resume, parents in the North Okanagan are wondering when they’ll be allowed back into the rinks to watch their kids play.

Last weekend marked the return of minor hockey games for players aged 11 and up in the Okanagan. But with COVID-19 return-to-play guidelines limiting indoor recreation facilities to a 50-person maximum, little to no room is left for parents to sit in the stands once the players, coaches, scorekeepers and other game facilitators are accounted for.

Erika Jones has two sons playing minor hockey in Lumby and a daughter playing ringette in Vernon. Her oldest son is 17 and in his last year of minor hockey eligibility.

“Not being able to watch him finish his last year, it’s pretty sad that (we) don’t get to see those last moments our children are going to have,” Jones said.

Sporting organizations in B.C. are overseen by viaSport, which took direction from the public health authorities as it built its Return to Sport guidelines. Under the Phase 3 guidelines, contact sports must play in cohorts containing 50 people or four teams.

Jones says most other parents at the Vernon and Lumby rinks are frustrated and disappointed that spectators aren’t allowed in facilities, and would like to see viaSport provide direction on how to safely attend games.

“Nobody expects it to be normal, but they would like to have some rules and guidelines that everybody could adhere to.”

Being a manager of two teams hasn’t made Jones exempt arena occupancy limits — something she sees as a potential safety concern.

“My coaches like to have the managers there to help if there’s an emergency, someone there to call 911. It could potentially be disastrous if somebody needs to call an ambulance and if they’re still carrying on the game,” she said. “Things like that rarely happen, but there was a time last year where we had a hurt player and there were a lot of hands on deck to help. This year that will not happen.”

READ MORE: Spectators no longer allowed at B.C. indoor sporting facilities

Lindi Cournoyer has a 10-year-old son who plays soccer and hockey in Lumby. After soccer was cancelled entirely around the time the pandemic emerged, they had high hopes that hockey would be back in full force.

“I’m happy and thankful that he even gets to play, but at the same time I also feel confused by it all,” Cournoyer said.

Cournoyer said she’s not alone among parents at the rink in wondering why safety measures that are now commonplace in grocery stores and other public spaces can’t be tried out in arenas.

“I think the majority of parents would be fine with sitting six feet away with a mask on if it means they can cheer their kid on,” she said. “I feel like so much of our joy has just been shut off and it’s going to come with devastating consequences.”

BC Hockey is among the organizations that reports to viaSport, and has been working on a return-to-play plan alongside Hockey Canada and other organizations since March.

Bill Greene, chair of the board for BC Hockey, said he’s spoken with parents and understands their frustration. He called the protocols around spectators “less than ideal,” but necessary given the expectations of a second COVID-19 wave that’s becoming more realized by the day.

“I actually like the idea that (parents) are enthusiastic about wanting to be there and engage with their kids, but for us, the most important thing is the players and player safety,” Greene said. “We felt it was more important to focus on the players, to get them back on the ice.”

The resumption of minor hockey games in the Okanagan isn’t to be taken for granted, Greene said. Last week, the provincial health officer issued additional COVID-19 restrictions in the Lower Mainland. Where sport is concerned, the order restricts anyone from taking part in an indoor sport unless the sport involves no physical contact between participants.

And elsewhere in the country, minor hockey leagues find themselves benched for at least the remainder of 2020.

“A great example is the Greater Toronto Hockey League. They have 44,000 members and they are all at home. None of them are playing,” Greene said.

Greene said BC Hockey is working daily to stay on top of the latest changes in public health recommendations and hopes parents understand that they and the organization share the same goal.

“It’s not forever,” he said. “We’ll do what we can, and as soon as we can get people back in the rink to enjoy watching their kids play then we’re all for it.”

READ MORE: Chilliwack hockey parents want to be back in the arena


Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
Email me at Brendan.Shykora@vernonmorningstar.com
Follow us: Facebook | Twitter

BC Minor HockeyCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Grizzly.
Morning Start: Humans might be able to hibernate like bears

Your morning start for Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020

The giant Christmas tree lights up downtown Salmon Arm on Dec. 1, 2017. (File photo)
COVID-19: Holiday Market, Tree Light-up in Salmon Arm cancelled

Downtown Salmon Arm makes change in response to protocols from provincial health officer

The team of horses is ready to pull riders for Caravan Farm Theatre’s sold-out Winter Sleigh-Ride Show of the Gift from Dec. 8-Jan.2. The Spallumcheen theatre company wants the province to include live theatre on its list of businesses allowed to operate during COVID-19. (File photo)
Spallumcheen theatre group plans for socially safe winter show to go on

Caravan Farm Theatre asks province to include live theatre on lists of businesses allowed to operate

Missy MacKintosh, founder/CEO with MisMacK Clean Costmetics, has been chosen one of the top 100 Canadian businesses in Canada’s Total Mom Pitch, with the next round going to public voting. (White Willow Photography)
Salmon Arm’s MisMacK cosmetics hits top 100 in women’s entrepreneur program

To reach the finals, participants must garner votes on website

The Animal Food Bank is asking for donations as the pandemic continues and the holidays approach. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
Okanagan Animal Food Bank in need of donations as pandemic continues

The Animal Food Bank provides food for any domestic pet in need

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

(Firedog Photography)
Family rescued from Peachland area after spending night in a truck

The family was off-roading when their truck battery died and became stranded

The Vernon Towne Theatre and Galaxy Cinemas are closed under the latest pandemic protocols. (File photo)
COVID-19 closes North Okanagan movie theatres, again

Galaxy Cinemas and Towne Theatre part of latest health regulations in limiting events

(Black Press Media files)
B.C. to test emergency alert system on cell phones, TVs, radios on Wednesday

The alert is part of a twice yearly test of the national Alert Ready system

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s inability to manufacture vaccines in-house will delay distribution: Trudeau

First doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in first few months of 2021, prime minister says

Kelowna International Airport. ���Image: Capital News file
Two more Kelowna flights exposed to COVID-19

At least seven Kelowna flights have been exposed to COVID-19 since Oct. 21

Phillip Tallio was just 17 when he was convicted of murder in 1983 (file photo)
Miscarriage of justice before B.C. teen’s 1983 guilty plea in girl’s murder: lawyer

Tallio was 17 when he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of his 22-month-old cousin

This undated photo issued by the University of Oxford shows of vial of coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, in Oxford, England. Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca said Monday Nov. 23, 2020, that late-stage trials showed its coronavirus vaccine was up to 90% effective, giving public health officials hope they may soon have access to a vaccine that is cheaper and easier to distribute than some of its rivals. (University of Oxford/John Cairns via AP)
VIDEO: How do the leading COVID vaccines differ? And what does that mean for Canada?

All three of the drug companies are incorporating novel techniques in developing their vaccines

Most Read