The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented challenge for the Club, the facilities we rely upon, and our families. The Ice Dog Board is in the midst of our return to play planning, and we wanted to provide a brief update on the situation from a hockey perspective, on the planning we have done so far, and the steps we will be taking over the course of the next few weeks and months.
We know that this email is long but want to be transparent with you about the challenges we are facing and how we intend to meet them. As we all know, this is an evolving situation that changes from day to day and week to week. The Board will continue to share our progress as we work to return to the ice.
The bottom line: during early phases of reopening, it is difficult and risky to reopen indoor facilities and risky to engage in indoor activities that require close physical contact. It is also difficult for facilities to cover the costs associated with opening and maintaining their venues when social distancing measures sharply limit the number of paying customers and also increase their maintenance costs. No one is sure when players will be able to return to the ice for training and no one is sure when players will be able to return to the ice for games. The loose planning dates most rinks are considering for returning paying customers to the ice is mid-late June. The loose planning date PVAHA is currently working with for the conduct of travel tryouts (which will serve as a trigger for the resumption of seasons for all of our programs) is after September 1st.
As we have begun our planning process, we are relying on a number of base documents and updates. All of these are based upon guidance from the CDC.
From a hockey planning perspective, guidance and documents come from USA Hockey and the PVAHA. The USA Hockey Return to Hockey guidelines were last updated on May 5th and serve as the baseline planning document for our own preparation plans. PVAHA has posted initial guidelines on travel tryouts as well. As a point of reference, the Ice Dogs CBHL program is considered Tier II. Our tryouts cannot begin until 14 days after Tier 1 supplemental tryouts begin.
From a facility planning perspective, guidance and documents come from Virginia (for Mount Vernon and Haymarket), Maryland (for the Ice Gardens), and DC (for Fort Dupont). Additionally, we rely upon guidance and actions from Fairfax County since they own and control Mount Vernon.
An important note for consideration: while we are conducting planning with the (optimistic) assumption that somewhat regular conditions will exist as of September 1st, we are conducting separate parallel planning with the (less optimistic) assumption that hockey this year will be very much constrained by the pandemic and prudent public health safety steps to reduce the risk that it poses.
External Communications: We have established running dialogues with the managers of over 6 different skating venues and are conducting collaborative planning with them to identify opportunities to both return kids to the ice this summer (if possible) and to prepare for a return to regular operations this fall and winter (if possible). If conditions limit the ability of Mount Vernon or Fort Dupont to reopen, it is possible that Ice Dog programs may be offered at other rinks in the area.
Internal (Coaching) Communications: We have identified the Lead Tryout Coaches for each CBHL age group and have begun communicating with those coaches so they can plan for tryouts in the late summer or early fall. The PVAHA expects there will be a very short time between USA Hockey’s announcement that Tier 1 tryouts can be scheduled and their execution so once the train starts moving, it will be moving fast. Additional coaching applications will be released in the next month for Fall/Winter 8U and CCHL. USA Hockey has established the online infrastructure for coaches and potential coaches to complete most of their certification requirements this summer.
Internal (Parent) Communications: We have posted a survey to gather information on how parents are likely to react to different scenarios we may see this summer, fall, and winter. Turnout has been very high (thank you!) and, for those who have not yet completed it, please do so by clicking on this link. We are currently reviewing the concerns, questions, and comments provided by parents in the survey and will be releasing video updates from our Return to Hockey Committee that address those questions. We have also posted a separate survey designed solely to capture additional questions that parents would like to see addressed in future updates. Click here to enter questions related to our return to hockey planning. We will also begin posting links to off-ice training ideas to help you players return quickly to the ice.
Step 1 will continue while we don’t have access to ice. This consists of our planning efforts for the return to ice as well as our communication with coaches and parents (all described above). Parents should be looking for opportunities to keep their players engaged in Agility, Balance, Coordination, and Speed (ABCs) activities such as those outlined in the links below.
Step 2 will commence when our rink partners open but are still operating with social distancing restrictions that prevent normal practice sessions or games. If we can safely get players back on the ice at an affordable price, we will do so. Ice sessions will require multiple safety measures for coaches, players, and parents. More details to follow.
Step 3 will commence when social distance policies have loosened broadly enough to allow the Club to conduct near-normal operations - to include participating in CBHL and CCHL league play. There will likely be additional safety measures still in place for the foreseeable future.
USA HOCKEY AND PVAHA
STATE, COUNTY, AND FACILITY
NVHC Vice President
Chairman, NVHC Return to Hockey Planning Committee
Tag(s): YOUTH (CBHL)