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

Interior Health reported 79 new cases of COVID-19 and two new death in the region Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Ben Hohenstatt/Juneau Empire)
79 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths reported in Interior Health

Both of Friday’s deaths were both recorded at long-term care homes

The BC CDC releases a map weekly that shows the geographic distribution of COVID in the province. (BC CDC photo)
Only one new case of COVID-19 in Golden region

The data shows new cases from Jan. 10 - 16

The Golden Rockets are keeping busy as the KIJHL team is ready to go when the league resumes games. (Claire Palmer photo)
Rockets keeping busy during COVID pause

The team is still practicing, waiting for the go-ahead for games

Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons. File photo.
MP Morrison calls Keystone XL permit cancellation ‘devastating news’

Kootenay-Columbia MP reacts to the Conservative Party’s removal of a controversial Ontario MP

(Pixabay photo)
Black Press Weekly Roundup: Top headlines of the week

In case you missed it, here’s what made waves throughout the week

Sunnybank in Oliver. (Google Maps)
Sunnybank long-term care in Oliver reports third COVID-19 death

The facility currently has an outbreak with 35 cases attached to it

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

Administrative headquarters for the Regional District of Central Okanagan in Kelowna. (File photo)
Tempers fly over a pricey picnic shelter in the North Westside

Lack of detail on $121,000 shelter expenditure further incites self-govenance wishes

Big White Village on Dec. 16. (Big White photo)
11 more COVID-19 cases linked to Big White cluster

Interior Health provided an update on the cluster on Friday

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Kamloops’ Royal Inland Hospital surgical unit

Despite 6 South being a surgical unit, RIH said surgeries are continuing at the hospital

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

Volunteer firefighters from Grand Forks Fire/Rescue head towards the scene of fatal car crash near Gibbs Creek Road, below Highway 3, Thursday evening, Jan. 21. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Motorist dies in Highway 3 crash west of Grand Forks

City first responders were called to the scene Thursday evening, Jan. 21

Vancouver Giants defenceman Bowen Byram could be playing for Colorado when the NHL resumes play. (Rik Fedyck/file)
Cranbrook product Bowen Byram makes NHL debut with Avalanche

Highly touted prospect marks first pro game following World Junior tournament in Alberta

Most Read