British Columbia

Burnaby Winter Club reopens for hockey with strict pandemic protocols

The private hockey club is the first Lower Mainland ice rink to reopen amid COVID-19 restrictions meaning operations will not look anything like they did pre-pandemic.

The private hockey club was overwhelmed by demand when it announced it was going to start up again

A young player put on his gear in the parking lot of the Burnaby Winter Club on Wednesday, May 6, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The Burnaby Winter Club is reopening Wednesday and judging by the response from members of the private hockey club, parents and players couldn't be happier.

"We received 150 emails in the first three minutes after announcing the reopening," said hockey director Richard Matvichuk.

"[The registrar] compared it to when he was a kid growing up, trying to buy tickets to a Bryan Adams concert."

The club is the first Lower Mainland ice rink to reopen amid COVID-19 restrictions, meaning operations are going to look strikingly different than they did pre-pandemic.

There are no team practices, only private lessons, with the maximum number of people allowed on a full sheet of ice set at five — one instructor and four students.

Hockey players put on their gear in designated areas during the first day of the Burnaby Winter Club ice rink reopening in Burnaby, British Columbia on Wednesday, May 6, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Players must arrive at the rink in full gear no earlier than 15 minutes before their ice time, and must follow the one-way traffic pattern that's been set into and out of the building.

There are a few appropriately distanced chairs where they can sit to put on skates, but otherwise the dressing rooms, benches and stands are closed, and parents are not allowed in to watch.

'Super overkill'

The reopening plan has the blessing of Fraser Health officials, and club general manager Terry Schein said staff had been conducting run-throughs to make sure the plan works.

He says being the first comes with a lot of pressure to not screw up.

"It's going to look like super overkill," he said. "But we want to get it right to demonstrate we're doing the things to support [Fraser Health's] principles."

Ice rinks were never explicitly ordered to shut down when the COVID-19 pandemic hit back in March, although almost all did in reaction to the public health restrictions placed around physical distancing and hygiene.

A man cleans a seat on the first day of the Burnaby Winter Club ice rink reopening in Burnaby, British Columbia on Wednesday, May 6, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Matvichuk says he's expecting there will be some backlash, but hopes people will see the effort for what it is — an attempt to give kids a chance to get out of the house and back on the ice.

"The essential thing is that we went above and beyond to make sure that we are safe," he said. "Our ultimate goal here ... is to keep our staff, our members and everybody healthy."

 

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