As the Club moves from Step 2 toward Step 3 of our Return to Hockey planning, we have begun finalizing decisions on what we believe is achievable for our 20/21 hockey programs. There are a number of factors we have considered and not all of those relate to COVID-19 and its effect on safety and ice availability. As we continue to address the challenges we face, the goal of the NVHC/Ice Dogs Board of Directors remains to position our club to emerge in as sound a position as possible so we can continue to provide a home for hockey players of all ages and skill levels.
All of our planning is built upon a baseline of information from a broad range of sources. That information is constantly changing. As of today:
Public Health Considerations: Northern Virginia is now slated to move to Phase 3 of the Forward Virginia reopening plan on July 1st. Under Phase 3, recreation facilities can move to 50% occupancy - although physical distance must be maintained and masks must be worn indoors (this does not include players while on the ice). This will still affect how we manage our entire hockey process (from getting ready to on-ice activities to spectators to departure from the facility). We will work in conjunction with our facility partners to ensure we are adhering to CDC, Virginia, local, and USA Hockey safety guidelines and best practices.
Facilities: We remain in close contact with a wide range of rinks across the DMV. Most importantly, we are working closely with our major partner rinks (Mount Vernon, Fort Dupont, Haymarket, and the Gardens Ice House in Laurel) to determine when they will open, how much ice they will have available, how much it will cost, and how we will need to support their public safety initiatives. The current status of these rinks is as follows:
USA Hockey, PVAHA, CBHL, and CCHL Guidance: While USA Hockey has not updated their COVID-19 response page since June 5th, we have received guidance from PVAHA and the CBHL relating to the execution of Tier II tryouts and player registration. The full details can be found on the PVAHA website and a key summary of dates and activities is listed below:
Ice Dogs Status: We are currently building a master schedule using our schedule from last year and factoring in expected availability dates, changes to how the ice slots will be rented, and changes to how many people can be in the building and on the ice for individual sessions. We are also factoring in the risks associated with executing a season that may be cut short if there is a resurgence of cases within the DMV region. We are developing more flexible payment plans that are designed to better protect both parents and the Club in the event of cancellations, reduced ice availability, or expanded ice availability (all of which could alter program costs as the season progresses).
Ice Dog Leadership Changes: Individual decisions by members of our Board to resign over the past week will affect our ability to offer our traditional slate of programs for this fall and winter just as ice availability, public health considerations, cost, and feasibility have been factored. Our former Director of Growth, Chris Battles, (who also served as the Club’s Master Scheduler and managed our LTP program) has chosen to resign for personal reasons. Our former Girls Program Director, Peter Townsend, has also resigned and chosen to start a new Girls program at the Haymarket Iceplex within the Piedmont Predator Youth Hockey Program.
As a Club, we remain committed to providing as many players as possible (at as many skill levels as possible) the opportunity to participate in a fun hockey environment that maximizes development opportunities while controlling costs. We have applied this perspective to our program planning for the 20/21 season.
Once we have a clear understanding of ice availability and occupancy restrictions for Mount Vernon, Fort Dupont, Haymarket, and the Ice Gardens, we will finalize scheduling and ice allotments. It is possible we will offer fewer ice touches per week than in previous seasons as our partner rinks react to changing conditions and guidance from their governing bodies. We expect ice availability will fluctuate throughout the season and our monthly pricing will adjust to address these changes.
Learn To Play: We will not conduct fall LTP sessions (primarily because we don’t think this is feasible given the existing physical distancing requirements associated with Virginia’s Phase 3 reopening plans). We will revisit winter and spring LTP when we have greater visibility on public health requirements such as building occupancy and physical distancing.
8U (House and Travel): We are planning to run our 8U House and Travel programs as close as possible to previous fall/winter seasons. Once we have a clear understanding of ice occupancy restrictions for Mount Vernon under Virginia’s Phase 3 reopening plan, we will set the size limits for the program. This program will continue to be run out of Mount Vernon on weekend mornings (House) and weekday evenings (Travel) as long as Mount Vernon is open and available to support. Registration for our 8U programs should open in early-mid July with travel tryouts occurring in August. The 8U Program Director is Scott Richard.
CCHL (10U-18U): We are planning to field the following teams for our CCHL program:
Once we have a clear understanding of ice occupancy restrictions for Mount Vernon, Fort Dupont, Haymarket, and the Gardens Ice House, we will set the size limits for the program. This may result in a change to the number of teams we can field for the 20/21 season.
While we plan to run this program similar to last year in terms of scheduling and ice locations, that is subject to change. Our goal with any schedule or location changes will be to simplify the program and make it easier for parents and players to get to practices and games. We expect there may be a greater ratio of practices to games and initial games may be limited to internal games between Ice Dog teams using a modified format (such as 3v3).
Registration for our CCHL programs should open in early-mid July with evaluations occurring in August. The CCHL Program Director is Mike Sharp.
CBHL (10U-18U): We are planning to field the following teams for our CBHL program:
Declarations of team levels to the CBHL will be determined after tryouts are complete and a final decision is made on the number of teams for each age group. We will not field any more teams than the numbers listed above but will field fewer if we don’t believe our teams will be competitive based on the number of registrants and the results of tryouts.
Given the differing rates of COVID-19 expansion and contraction in areas our CBHL teams have traveled in the past, it is highly likely that more games will be played locally and the ratio of practices to games will be higher. While we plan to run this program similar to last year in terms of scheduling and ice locations (with reduced use of Fort Dupont during weeknights when possible), that is subject to change. Our goal with any schedule or location changes will be to simplify the program and make it easier for parents and players to get to practices and games.
Registration for CBHL tryouts should open within the next ten days and we are planning to start tryouts for returning players on or around July 13th and tryouts for new registrants on or around July 20th, subject to ice availability. We may use Spring Select evaluation results and rosters from the 19/20 season to offer positions to returning players if we are limited on ice or coach availability for our tryouts. Once tryout registration opens, please reach out if your player will not be available for the windows we have listed. Given the last minute nature of tryout scheduling, we understand there may be extenuating circumstances that prevent players from attending and we will work to find accommodations. The CBHL Program Director is Tim Froemke.
Girls (10U-19U): We are planning to field the following teams for our Girls program:
Specific levels of each team will be determined based on registration numbers and the results of on-ice evaluations. The 14 and 16 or 16/19U teams will likely play in the CBHL. The 10 and 12 teams will play CBHL or CCHL.
We do not plan to declare any team as national-bound for the 20/21 season. This decision was very difficult to make. Our Club and Piedmont splitting up the same pool of players only weakens both clubs and hurts the players who desire the national-bound experience. If you had plans to play on an Ice Dogs national-bound team this year then the coach you were planning on playing for is now planning on coaching at Piedmont. We wish these players, families and coaches the best.
We plan on running the remaining girls teams similar to last year in terms of scheduling and ice locations, but that is subject to change. Our goal with any schedule or location changes will be to simplify the program and make it easier for parents and players to get to practices and games. Registration for Girls tryouts should open within the next ten days and we are planning to start tryouts for returning players on or around July 13th and tryouts for new registrants on or around July 20th, subject to ice availability. If ice availability is limited, we may assign players to teams based on their 19/20 season team placement. The interim Girls Program Director is Carson Evans.
Billing: Given the uncertainty associated with this season, we will bill for all programs on a month-to-month basis. This enhances flexibility and reduces risk for both the Club and for Club families. Those families who have credit remaining from spring payments will have their first few months’ payments for this season prorated to return that credit. Monthly payments will be collected at the beginning of each month of the 20/21 season. If the season is suspended or cancelled, we will not offer refunds for that month.
Fees: We are working diligently to develop a fee schedule for each program that accommodates the changes described above. Each rink we work with has different rates and a different plan for how those rates may change over the course of this season. The number of players we can put on the ice due to public health constraints affects our per player ice cost as does the ratio of games to practices since games involve fewer Ice Dog players on the ice and add the cost of referees. Given this uncertainty, it will be 1-2 more weeks until we can better predict the monthly rate for each program - and the monthly rate may change over the course of the season if conditions shift substantially (changes to number of games, changes to number of players allowed on the ice at once, changes to number of ice slots available based on cleaning and reset times increasing or decreasing, etc.). As always, our goal will remain to provide the highest quality hockey experience for our Ice Dog players at the most reasonable and appropriate cost.
Tournaments and Tournament Fees: CBHL and Girls Teams may register and participate in local tournaments if they are USA Hockey-sanctioned and parents agree to do so at the team level. If CBHL and Girls teams are able to participate in tournaments, those fees will be collected at the team level once registration for the tournament occurs (rather than being collected as part of the initial program payment).
Skill Training: At this time, we do not plan to contract with Wolfe to provide player or goalie training during the 20/21 season. This will help us further control costs.
Despite the changing and challenging circumstances in which the entire hockey community finds itself as we prepare for the 20/21 season, the Ice Dogs remain committed to finding the right balance of teams, ice, and activities to balance Club longevity with player needs and family safety. We ask for your flexibility and patience as we work to make informed decisions in a rapidly changing environment. We look forward to seeing everyone back at the rink in the coming weeks!
-NVHC Board of Directors