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North Bay Minor Hockey outlines return-to-ice plan

North Bay Minor Hockey (NBMH) is back.

The organization has finalized its return to play strategy for the upcoming season and will open registration on September 18.

As for how much interest there will be, NBMH President, Darrell Pitman, isn’t one hundred percent sure.

“I honestly don’t know. From what I’ve heard, it’s probably going to be pretty good,” he said.

Minor hockey will consist of an 11-week training block running from October 5 to December 20. This will feature practices and skills training to give players and coaches the chance to get used to the new protocols.

In the new year, the organization hopes to be able to resume five-on-five games. Pitman says that the fall training schedule is a Hockey Canada mandate, and the decision to allow games will be made depending on how the region is handling COVID-19.

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Players will be put in 50-player “bubbles”, which the organization says to “think of this as a league”. Within each bubble, players will be divided into training groups consisting of nine skaters and one goalie.

There will be two training groups on the ice at a time, with the protocols not allowing more than 25 skaters for practice sessions. Each session will be an hour-and-a-half long. Three-on-three and four-on-four games will also be played later into the training block.

There will be two tiers of training programs depending on if the player played rep or house league hockey the previous year. There will also be a third tier for players seven years old and younger.

Players, coaches, and parents must adhere to the health protocols that have been implemented by the City of North Bay, which include arriving at the arena dressed with a face mask. Only skates will be allowed to put on inside the facilities.

Even though it will look different, Pitman is glad that kids will be able to hit the ice once again.

“It’s good for the kids. They expect it every year and it’s part of their life – it’s a good group, they’re always there. The pandemic is still here but they’re going to have a bit of normality which will help make their well-being a lot better,” he noted.

Registration for the NBMHA is open from September 18 to October 2. 

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