Hockey rinks feeling pinch of suspended sports

In any other year, hockey rinks around Saskatchewan would be busy every night of the week and even busier on the weekends, with the sounds of sticks clacking on the ice and pucks being slapped around blending with the shouts of spectators in the stands.

But 2020 has certainly been unlike any other year with the COVID-19 pandemic making an indelible impact on our lives, both personal and professional.

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The latest hit that the virus has landed came last week in the form of new restrictions and guidelines announced by the provincial government, in which tighter limitations were imposed on restaurants, as well as reduced capacity numbers for performance and gaming venues such as casinos, Bingo halls, and movie theaters.

As well, the new measures dealt a temporary blow to team sports around Saskatchewan, with all manner of games and activity suspended until December 17, after which the government will assess and reveal its next steps.  In addition to team sports, suspensions were also levied to everything from cheerleading to dance practices in group settings.

In Outlook, the new measures mean no senior Ice Hawks games on Friday and Saturday nights, as well as no games for all levels of the celebrated minor sports teams.

The decision to suspend team sports province-wide has produced a wide array of opinion, with many saying it isn’t fair to “punish” teams and players who have been abiding by all the necessary pandemic guidelines, while others say that they understand how the effort needs to be province-wide and that being selective over where game suspensions are levied could possibly produce its own set of troubles or outbreaks down the road.

In short, parents are frustrated that kids who play hockey across the province are paying a price for the recent outbreak numbers that called for the new restrictions.

At the Jim Kook Rec Plex in Outlook, no hockey means no crowds, and no crowds means a lack of some much-needed dollars.  However, the town’s Recreation Director, Trevor Ouellette says there is a little bit of cost offset that could help cushion the blow that’ll be felt for the next two weeks.

“Obviously with the games being suspended, our kitchen revenues are non-existent,” said Trevor, in an email to this reporter.  “As for revenues from ice usage, minor hockey is still utilizing the ice for skill development, however, we lose the revenue that comes from our per-hour user groups such as adult rec hockey, the Ice Hawks and out of town renters. A little bit of cost offset is less demand on the ice plant (power), fewer floods (natural gas) and even though our janitorial efforts have been ratcheted up, less demand on the disinfecting side.”

Though there’s no hockey at the Rec Plex until at least December 17, depending on the next direction the provincial government decides to take, the news is far from being all negative as Ouellette provided The Outlook with an update on the outdoor rink that’s located just behind the Rec Plex.

“The outdoor rink is in and on schedule to be ready for January,” he said.  “Chain link fencing, protective netting and lighting are scheduled to be completed in the next two weeks.  Temperatures need to be consistently in the -7 to -10 or colder in order for the dirt base to freeze.  So, we are at the mercy of Mother Nature.”

© The Outlook

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