August 22, 2020

With September approaching, families may have some questions surrounding what minor hockey will look like in SWZ this fall. Your SWZ Board has been doing a lot of planning in the background for a number of possible scenarios that we may need to face.

Recently, Hockey Edmonton issued Return to Play Guidelines that can be found here:

Hockey Edmonton Return to Play Guidelines for Community Hockey

These guidelines are subject to change at any time as Alberta Health Services and Hockey Alberta respond to COVID-19 conditions throughout the province. New directives are expected very shortly, however, our planning, and the focus of this communication is around the currently available guidance.

Development Phase:

Until a return to full play is available, minor hockey associations will operate in the Development Phase. The key elements of this phase are as follows:
• Associations can form teams that compete in competitive play as long as they limit their practice and play to a cohort of no more than 50 people (players and coaches).
• Teams are to remain small to facilitate social distancing where possible (bench, change rooms, etc). Teams will likely consist of 10 to 12 players. This would allow for three or four teams to be able to play within a cohort.
• In forming teams, associations should continue with efforts to have players of similar skill playing within a cohort.
• With few exceptions, teams are to play only within their hockey associations.
• Cohorts will be organized into something similar to the traditional tiering grid. For both U15 and U18 tiers 1 to 3 are full-body contact while tiers 4 to 6 are non-body checking.
As a result of these conditions, it is anticipated that the format of play will be modified from the traditional game:
• It is expected that on-ice officials will not be available during the development phase,
• The format of play may shift to a more flow style where there is no stoppage of play for off-sides and icings. Penalties would result in penalty shots in order to eliminate the interaction of players and off-ice officials. Coaches could be tasked with officiating the games.
• With the smaller number of players rostered, gameplay may be adjusted from 5-on-5 to 4-on-4, or even 3-on-3 depending on the number of available players.
• These changes could result in a significant increase in ice-time for players so games may be shortened from what U15 and U18 players have experienced in the past.

Evaluation Plan:

Some associations have announced they are opting to not conduct evaluations during the development stage and relying on prior-year placement for the formation of their cohorts. Any evaluations during the Development Phase must be conducted under the social distancing guidelines and can only be individual skill-based drills. No competitive drills/gameplay evaluations are allowed.

The SWZ Board has agreed that we will provide for player evaluation this fall. Our current plan is to provide for two non-evaluated skill skates for all players (and goalies). This will allow players to be introduced to the drills upon which they will be evaluated, and to shake off a little off-season rust that they may have accumulated. This would be followed by at least two skill-based evaluation skates.

We anticipate starting this process on September 7th, 2020, with the non-evaluation skates starting at that time for U15, followed shortly by U18.

Players registered in the Recreational Hockey Program will not be participating in the evaluation process.

Future Communications:

We will be providing more details as we finalize our plans. We are also planning an online town hall-style meeting where we can more formally present our plans and answer questions.

Thank you for your patience and your understanding that things need to be done differently this year as we look to find creative ways to get our kids back playing the sport they love, in a safe and fun environment.

Best regards,
Darren Buma
SWZ President