Minor hockey is back this fall for the 2020-2021 season, but with enhanced safety measures due to COVID-19.
“Traditional hockey this year is not what we’re going to know it to be,” said Simon Duong, President of the West Niagara Minor Hockey Association, said in a video posted to Youtube today.
Among the changes is hockey school, which is cancelled this year. The program is typically held for young skaters ages four to six and trains basic skating skills required for hockey.
“We will not be providing hockey school until a further time where we can have contact. Especially when kids are learning how to skate and we have volunteers picking them up, helping them, working with them…it will be postponed until we can provide proper programming,” said Duong.
Hockey programs will resume for the more seasoned players, but with new safety guidelines. “This year the washer will consist of nine players and one goalie. They will only be allowed to play on one team with no affiliation,” said Duong.
IP and minor novice programs will continue. There will be cohorts of 50 where 25 players will be allowed on the ice at one time so they can scrimmage.
This year, there will be four tiers of players. Tier 1 will consist of AAA and AA players from last year’s roster. Tier 2 will be A players from last year’s roster. Tier 3 will be AS players from last year’s roster. Tier 4 will be house league and local league for Grimsby Minor Hockey Association, Lincoln Minor Hockey Association, and West Lincoln Minor Hockey Association.
Tier 1, 2 & 3 will play in accordance with the guidelines designed by the Niagara District Hockey League return to play format. These enhanced structures fall within the Niagara Public Health Unit safety guidelines, as well.
There will be two teams per division in each category. “We are going to split them into an A team and B team evenly,” said Duong.
Teams will play an average of one home game and one away game per week. They will also practice once per week on average with their West Niagara team in the same bubble, which means A team will practice with B team. Play will consist of 3-on-3 as outlined in the Ontario Hockey Federation return to play guidelines.
One of the major changes this year is that there will be no tryouts following directives from Ontario Hockey Federation, Hockey Canada, and the Ontario Minor Hockey Association.
“The coaches will be tasked in selecting the players, and the board will ensure that this is done with integrity,” said Duong.
Non-resident hockey players will also be allowed to remain with their last season rostered association or return to their home association. “If you are not a resident of West Niagara, and you did not play here last year, you will not be eligible to play,” said Duong.
Only goalies may be rostered to multiple teams, but still must not exceed 10 players to a team.
This year, discounts for multi-families will not be provided. “If there is a way we can sponsor a player to play we’ll certainly look into this. Please reach out to us if you have difficulty with this,” said Duong.
“The budget (this year) is designed in a way that it’s full cost recovery. We are getting hit hard this year without tournaments…we had 17 players on a team and now we’re down to 10…with those numbers it hurts our feasability of keeping the costs down,” said Duong
“The goal here is to try to get as many kids coming back and playing as possible,” he said.
Registration will open Sept. 8. The first two weeks of development are slated to begin Oct. 1. Registration fees for 2020-2021 season are as follows:
Season- U7 Registration Fee – IP
- $610 per player
- 2 practices a week
U8 Registration Fee – Minor Novice
- $610 per player
- 2 practices a week
U9, U10, U11, U12, U13, U14, U15, U16, U17 & U18 Registration Fee
- Tier 1,2,3 – $1,075 per player
- NDHL format – 12 home, 12 away games
- Average a practice a week
Tier 4 Registration Fee
- $650 per player
- Average 1 game a week
- Practice every other week
League centres will be in Fort Erie, Garden City, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Thorold, Welland, and West Niagara. League members outside the Niagara Public Health area, like Dunnville, Glancaster, and Stoney Creek are currently seeking approval to remain in the league
For further updates and information on registration visit the West Niagara Minor Hockey website.