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Physical distancing on ice: Hockey returns to Burnaby Winter Club
VANCOUVER -- Some players are returning to the ice at an elite hockey school in Burnaby Wednesday, but there are some big changes for players, parents and coaches as the Burnaby Winter Club reopens with a focus on physical distancing.
Games and full practices still appear to be a long way off, but limited private skills training is resuming at the private club, with a strict limit on numbers.
"We are very excited. It's a chance to get kids out of the house again for a sport they love to play," Richard Matvichuk with the club told CTV News on Wednesday.
The club, which was closed as a precaution in mid-March, said coaches will be on the ice with a maximum of four players.
There will also be one-on-one instruction.
"We're going to use a coach's stick length, which is about three metres. We're going to keep them very far apart to make sure they're able, they're safe — but at the same time they're able to get their skill development and power skating in," Matvichuk said.
The focus over the next few weeks will be on skills training, with shooting, passing and skating drills permitted. Battle or compete drills are not allowed.
"I'm feeling really good getting to skate again and playing with my friends," eight-year old Dawson Littman said as he went to practice Wednesday. "It's going to be fun. That's all I know."
Littman said he was briefed by his parents on the new rules, and said the biggest change for him was putting on his hockey skates at home and not being able to see his friends after they play.
The club has been working closely with Fraser Health on the limited opening.
Players will have to enter the club fully dressed in their gear, with the exception of their skates, which can be put on in a designated seating area.
All other common areas have been closed and there are new pick up and drop off zones in the club's parking lot to keep people apart.
Spectators, including parents and siblings, are not allowed inside the facility. The club is also warning parents not to gather or tailgate in the club parking lot.
Littman's father, David, said his son is just glad to be back on the ice, even if he can't get close to his friends, and will have to leave right after playing.
"We're a hockey family and we missed it a lot. But the good news is we are making sure we are taking precautions to make sure we aren't putting any of the kids in danger."
Littman says they have ordered a new full visor shield for Dawson’s helmet which they hope will protect him further from any droplets.
Other private and public arenas around Metro Vancouver remain temporarily closed as a precaution in light of COVID-19, with no estimate on when they may reopen.
Matvichuk believes the Burnaby Winter Club is one of the first arenas in North America to re-open.
"We are excited to be those people. We feel like we went above and beyond to make it safe and healthy," he said.