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NOHA outlines minor hockey framework

The Northern Ontario Hockey Association (NOHA) is working toward a plan that will get minor hockey players back on the ice.

Jason Marchand, Executive Director of the NOHA says that talks for this season have been going on since the previous one was cut short.

“The hockey season was cancelled on March 12th and I think there’s been conversations at least once a week,” he said.

Right now, Marchand and the numerous minor hockey leagues around northern Ontario have set out a framework of what the upcoming season will look like. He says that the hockey itself may look a little different.

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“We’ve provided both a short term and a long term plan based on local play, based on tiering and based on non-traditional – so not your regular 15 or 20 minute periods – modified rules because of physical distancing and things like that,” he said.

The Ontario government’s Stage 3 guidelines state that non-contact sports can resume in leagues with up to 50 people. Marchand says that this will take body checking out of minor hockey, but incidental contact is still permitted.

“The modified plans will give us an idea of what to tell families, or new hockey families what the game will look like in the short term,” Marchand said.

With arenas in the area beginning to welcome skaters back, Marchand says that parents and players are still looking to play this year.

“The feedback has been positive. From the few arenas that have been open in northern Ontario, the interest is there though we do expect there to be a decrease [in registrations],” he explained.

As for registration fees, Marchand says that they will not be impacted this year, but the ramifications from the pandemic may be felt in future years.

Most hockey associations rely on fundraisers and tournaments to make money to offset team fees, which will not be able to be held for the time being. Marchand says that could impact fees in future years for some associations.

Marchand also says that the traditional sense of a “hockey season” may even need to change this year.

“Something we’ve also urged our organizations to do is try to plan a little differently, looking at the season in shorter spurts. So, instead of having a player commit from September to April, maybe do four week periods or eight week periods,” he explained. “It provides some flexibility, it provides an opportunity to join later on if things continue getting better. It just provides us different options for players to come back when they and their families feel comfortable.”

The North Bay District AAA Trappers announced on Tuesday that online registration for the upcoming season is available, and the association is waiting to gauge interest before making any further decisions.

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