Due to new restrictions from the B.C. government in their efforts to contain the spread COVID-19, eight players on the Kimberley Dynamiters are now not currently allowed to practice with their team.
This latest update on protocols, issued Dec. 3, state that indoor and outdoor adult sports are suspended. For the Dynamiters, this means that the eight players aged 19 and 20 are not allowed to practice, but the rest of the team still is.
“It’s quite damaging actually, we’ve got to go back to Phase 2 activities, and apparently our 19 and 20 year olds are unsafe to be on the ice at the same time as the rest of the team too,” Dynamiters head coach and general manger Derek Stuart told the Bulletin.
Stuart said this latest development came as a surprise; he and the rest of the team were still waiting for the current restrictions prohibiting them from travelling for games to be lifted, which was slated for Dec. 7.
He said his players are crushed.
“At least in March it was kind of understood because we didn’t know what it was about, but to have these restrictions put on them now when there wasn’t a problem, we were doing our part and the arenas were one of the safest places you could be.
“To now be restricted this strongly to being Phase 2 and like I said to have eight players on our team who can’t practice with us now for some reason. It just makes you feel like just get it over with and don’t let us skate at all. Like Alberta and Saskatchewan did, because I think that’s where our team is going to have to go in eight to 10 days anyways.”
In addition to their run at the championship getting cut short at the onset of the pandemic back in March, the team has also had to deal with missing most of their exhibition games and pre-season practice after a player tested positive for COVID-19 and then the suspension of travel for games.
One of the hardest parts of all of it, Stuart says, is the uncertainty; not knowing if and when they will be allowed to return to play.
“That’s part of the big mental block or problem that everyone, coaches and volunteers and players all have to go through, there’s no end in sight, we don’t know what their next move is going to be. We were kind of hoping we were just going to be able to stay in Phase 3 here but apparently they moved it to Phase 2 for some reason and that uncertainty is part of the problem.”
For these young players, the inability to play at this critical point in their lives is extremely difficult.
“Yeah it sucks,” Stuart said. “At least when we were playing, Hockey TV broadcasts our games and teams and scouts can see them that way, but we also have, in addition to the college guys, the young guys who are trying to get noticed by Junior A and WHL teams that can’t do that now. Hopefully they get to do it in January, but it’s very frustrating and very mentally challenging for these teenagers.”
Stuart said he’s told his players, the ones still allowed to practice, to simply be grateful they’re able to get out on the ice, even though it’s under, as he puts it, “ridiculous circumstances,” and to take things day by day.
“You never know if something’s going to change for worse or for better so all we can do is just go out and skate when we’re allowed to skate with the 16 to 18 year olds that we’re allowed to skate with.”
The players have been given the option to head home beginning this weekend if they so choose, to get an early start to Christmas. Stuart said they’re going to keep the practice ice times they have until Dec. 18, and if the guys who are still around want to participate in the Phase 2 practices, they will still be available.
Stuart suspects that there are a few 19 and 20 year olds who will go home if they aren’t able to skate.
“It’s been a big mental strain and the biggest one is there’s no reason for it in a lot of people’s opinions,” Stuart said. “We were doing good, everyone was doing their part, the rinks were safe, it was working. So I don’t know what the point of all the COVID protocols at the start of the year was if what we did was working and we still got shut down to this extent.”
On Friday, Dec. 4, the KIJHL announced that they are postponing all regular season games scheduled through Dec. 31, adding teams may continue to conduct on-ice activities that abide by the Provincial Health Order, until their holiday break begins on Dec. 19.
“The KIJHL appreciates the patience being shown by all league stakeholders, including our fans, sponsors, volunteers and facility partners, during a difficult and uncertain time,” they said in a press release. “We are particularly grateful to the players, team staff and billet families who have worked diligently over the past three months to ensure a safe and healthy environment for all participants.”