Full-contact games return to P.E.I. amateur hockey next week

Hockey PEI has announced that starting next week, teams across the Island will return to playing games — and full-body contact will also be allowed back on the ice. 

Earlier this week, the group said it would be heading into Phase 4 of the Return to Hockey Plan.  And while some details still need to be sorted out, officials are looking forward to their new normal. 

Coaches gathering players around the bench? That won’t happen.– Mike Hammill, president of Hockey PEI

“We’ve been messaging with kids and parents all summer, and they’re really missing the sports and the physical activity,” said Mike Hammill, the president of Hockey PEI.

He says they are “really pleased” to be getting ready to drop the puck. 

“It’s primarily based on the good job the public health office has done in terms of the Atlantic bubble and keeping people safe.”

New protocols in place

According to Hammill, hockey still won’t look quite the same as it did before the pandemic. Among other protocols, coaches and timekeepers will have to wear masks and participants will be screened before entering the rink.

“[If] somebody is body-checking, they quickly have to move away so the contact doesn’t continue,” he said. 

“Coaches gathering players around the bench? That won’t happen.”

‘We’re not seeing parents keeping kids out of hockey because they don’t think it’s safe,’ says Mike Hammill. ‘They’re wanting to play sports for their mental health and physical activity.’ (Steve Bruce/CBC)

Despite the changes, one Island hockey coach said he’s just excited about the games and imagines his team will be too. 

“It’s fantastic. It’s just getting back a little bit, getting back to normal,” said Scott McCabe, the coach of the Central Storm Under-18 Female team.

“We’re just happy to be back on the ice. And I know getting back to league play, my team will be very happy.”

We want to keep hockey going. So we’re going to do whatever it takes.– Scott McCabe, Central Storm Under-18 Female hockey coach

McCabe said their season came to an end last year just after the team won a nail-biting sudden-death double overtime to move onto the regional championships. 

“Among the jubilations and the cheering inside the dressing room … I had to tell them that hockey was over,” he said. “That was one of the most difficult positions I was ever in as far as a hockey coach.

“We want to keep hockey going. So we’re going to do whatever it takes, and whatever modifications we have to abide by, we will.”

No off-Island games

It still remains unclear whether fans will be allowed back in the stands — and if they are, in what numbers. Hammill said that depends on the operational plan of each individual area. 

“We’ll be working with facilities to help them get them plans together, so parents can get back into the rink,” he said. 

‘We’re not far behind schedule where we were every other year,’ says Scott McCabe. ‘We’re slowly getting back into the regular routine.’ (Steve Bruce/CBC)

And though for the time being P.E.I. hockey teams will only be able to play other P.E.I. hockey teams, Hammill said that will be re-evaluated in November. 

“They want to get back on the ice, they want to have competition, they want to travel off-Island. They want to do things they normally do,” he said.  

“But we’re getting a sense that parents are pleased that we’ve waited this long and have a plan in place. It’s important.” 

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