British Columbia

Adult rec hockey is coming back, but the rules have changed

The Adult Safe Hockey League is preparing to start a summer season in B.C. with major changes to the game.

The Adult Safe Hockey League is preparing to start a summer season in B.C. with major changes to the game

The company that owns the Adult Safe Hockey League is planning major changes to how the game is played in order to reintroduce adult recreational hockey to B.C. in early July during the COVID-19 pandemic. (dotshock/Shutterstock)

Handheld electronic whistles that referees will use to stop play may be one of the smallest changes to adult recreational hockey as the game returns to B.C. in early July during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Adult Safe Hockey League (ASHL) is now signing players up for its summer season, after abruptly suspending activity March 13, as the virus that causes COVID began to sweep across Canada.

But to safely resume the sport, Canlan, the company that runs the ASHL has come up with some major changes to how the game is played.

"It's like organized shinny — organized pond hockey, where there's constant flow and constant movement," said Joey St-Aubin, CEO of Canlan.

St-Aubin says there won't be any faceoffs. Instead, the visiting team will start with the puck at the centre-line, with the home team taking position at the blue-line.

According to St-Aubin, ASHL is the world's largest adult rec hockey league. The league's Facebook page boasts 65,000 players in Canada and the U.S. 

For this upcoming summer season, St-Aubin expects about 200 teams between the adult and youth leagues in B.C.

"This game of hockey may not look at all like it did in the past," he said.

Four on four

The game will be four-on-four, with just two 20-minute periods. Each team's roster will be limited to two four-person shifts and a goalie, in order to keep the numbers down and allow for physical distancing in the dressing room and on the bench.

There won't be penalties — instead, there will be penalty shots, similar to basketball.

Offside and icing calls will both use the red-line at centre ice, and to reduce aspirated droplets unnecessarily entering the arena's air, the ref will rely on an electronic whistle.

The league already plays without body checking, but now contact will be completely off limits.

"Player-to-player contact is a penalty — you've got to play the puck with the stick, so we want to make sure there's very little contact between players," said St-Aubin.

He said the health  authorities where the league plays have been consulted on the company's plans — Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health — along with the B.C. minister of Sport.

Physical distancing measures

Along with the changes to how the game is played, St-Aubin said participants will encounter many other changes to prevent the spread of COVID-19, include:

  • Daily pre-screening online surveys.
  • A 20-minute limit on arrival before the game.
  • Staff to manage player arrivals, screening and movement at facilities.
  • Plexiglass sneeze guards around water bottles on the bench.
  • Markers on the bench and in dressing rooms to guide physical distancing.

Officials in B.C. expect to begin phase three of the province's restart plan this week, so long as a COVID-19 data modelling update from Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix supports the reopening of various activities.

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