Is it too late to save the amateur hockey season?
Yes, the managers of the Boucherville, Brossard, Sainte-Julie and Côte-Saint-Luc clubs decided. Not yet, judge the others. Except that every day the interest wears off. Hope is dwindling. At some point, we will have to decide. Half of the associations have therefore set a deadline.
Last day of curfew.
We will then know the government’s intentions for deconfinement. For hockey, nothing has been decided yet, I am assured. But that will certainly take winning conditions. Which ones? Three indices are under the magnifying glass of decision-makers in Quebec.
1. The situation in hospitals. You know, in several regions, things are overflowing. So much so that in early January, Public Health considered asking for the closure of ski centers. Nothing to do with contagion on the slopes. Rather, experts feared injured skiers would further encumber already overwhelmed hospitals. The hospital network is overloaded. It remains a concern.
2. The vaccination. Quebec wishes to protect the greatest number of vulnerable people before lifting certain constraints on gatherings. The more weeks go by, the easier it will be to deconfin.
3. Contagion. Hockey has been hit more than other sports by the virus. There have been several major outbreaks. Particularly in British Columbia, New Hampshire and Vermont. That said, very little in Quebec, because it has been banned almost everywhere since October. At the beginning of November, with 700 cases per day in the province, Minister Isabelle Charest was optimistic about being able to deconfin hockey. Then the number of infected people exploded. “At 2000, 3000 cases per day, with a curfew, putting pressure on it is counterproductive,” explains Hockey Quebec general manager Paul Ménard.
These lights will have to be green for hockey to resume on February 8. If not ? The return to play will be (again) postponed. Several associations will then end their season. “Around 40%”, estimates Paul Ménard. The remaining 60%? “They are ready to wait until March or April,” he rejoices.
Here is the state of play and the stakes for each league
Regional leagues (AA, BB, A, B, C)
To extend the season this spring, clubs must secure ice cream. “It’s a major issue,” agrees Paul Ménard. In Estrie and Mauricie, arena doors are already padlocked. Elsewhere, several cities usually close their rinks in April, and redeploy employees to maintain outdoor parks.
Another challenge: the game format that will eventually be authorized. Parties or only training? It will have a big impact on registrations. Especially at the midget and junior levels, recognizes Paul Ménard. For younger people, that should be less of a problem.
In addition, if the ban on interregional matches continues, the clubs hope that it will at least be possible for them to organize games between young people from the same association.
LHEQ (AAA, AAA Relève, Espoir)
LHEQ hockey players enrolled in a sports-study program can train on the ice. But they can’t play. A situation that is likely to continue for a few weeks.
By definition, in an elite league, there are few clubs. One or two per region, per category. As long as interregional travel is “not suggested”, it will be difficult to organize a schedule of meetings between the teams of the league.
There are alternatives. This fall, in the yellow or orange zone, LHEQ teams faced school clubs in their area. “We strongly encourage these discussions,” emphasizes Paul Ménard. Another possibility: mix the AAA and AAA players from the same structure, and have them play among themselves.
Several scenarios are on the table, including a 32-game schedule that would start in mid-February. If not allowed? “We will reduce the number of games,” said the president of the circuit, Yanick Lévesque. “Our goal is to present as many games as possible. Even if it means reducing travel. We have the ability to stretch our season until the end of the school year. Three-quarters of the clubs have already secured an ice cream for this spring, and the league is in the process of finding a plan B for other markets.
“We don’t think there will be a season this spring,” said the CEO of the Quebec Student Sport Network (RSEQ), Gustave Roel. Rather, the organization relies on “positive experiences”. For example: a meeting between two school teams from the same neighborhood. “By the end of winter, we will no longer be in league management mode, but in meetings between establishments. »Both in high school, college and university. The RSEQ wants a return to normal in September 2021 or, in the worst case scenario, in January 2022.
Several projects are under study. Including a shortened season, regional series and mergers of age categories. “We are not ready to say and believe [mardi] that the season is over, says league coordinator Mathieu Perron. If there is the possibility of playing in February, March, or even in April or May, the Preparatory School Hockey League (LHPS) will respond present with the constraints and possibilities of the moment. We owe it to our student-athletes who work hard to keep focus and their morale. ”
Schools affiliated with the Quebec Interschool Hockey League (LHIQ) have prepared a schedule of 12 games per team. “We hope to be able to offer games to our young people this year, but we understand that everyone’s safety and health must come first,” explains Marco Deschênes, hockey program manager at Collège Regina Assumpta. The league is “seriously” evaluating the possibility of extending the season beyond the beginning of April. “It’s really sad, what’s happening now,” adds Loyola High School athletic director Phil Lafave. We are going to adjust. And if we can only play three-on-three games, well, at least that will be it! ”