Vernon’s Kal Tire Place. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)

Vernon’s Kal Tire Place. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)

COVID-19: North Okanagan parents want arena access as minor hockey resumes

Rink occupancy is limited to 50 people during the pandemic, leaving no room for spectators

As minor hockey games resume, parents in the North Okanagan are wondering when they’ll be allowed back into the rinks to watch their kids play.

Last weekend marked the return of minor hockey games for players aged 11 and up in the Okanagan. But with COVID-19 return-to-play guidelines limiting indoor recreation facilities to a 50-person maximum, little to no room is left for parents to sit in the stands once the players, coaches, scorekeepers and other game facilitators are accounted for.

Erika Jones has two sons playing minor hockey in Lumby and a daughter playing ringette in Vernon. Her oldest son is 17 and in his last year of minor hockey eligibility.

“Not being able to watch him finish his last year, it’s pretty sad that (we) don’t get to see those last moments our children are going to have,” Jones said.

Sporting organizations in B.C. are overseen by viaSport, which took direction from the public health authorities as it built its Return to Sport guidelines. Under the Phase 3 guidelines, contact sports must play in cohorts containing 50 people or four teams.

Jones says most other parents at the Vernon and Lumby rinks are frustrated and disappointed that spectators aren’t allowed in facilities, and would like to see viaSport provide direction on how to safely attend games.

“Nobody expects it to be normal, but they would like to have some rules and guidelines that everybody could adhere to.”

Being a manager of two teams hasn’t made Jones exempt arena occupancy limits — something she sees as a potential safety concern.

“My coaches like to have the managers there to help if there’s an emergency, someone there to call 911. It could potentially be disastrous if somebody needs to call an ambulance and if they’re still carrying on the game,” she said. “Things like that rarely happen, but there was a time last year where we had a hurt player and there were a lot of hands on deck to help. This year that will not happen.”

READ MORE: Spectators no longer allowed at B.C. indoor sporting facilities

Lindi Cournoyer has a 10-year-old son who plays soccer and hockey in Lumby. After soccer was cancelled entirely around the time the pandemic emerged, they had high hopes that hockey would be back in full force.

“I’m happy and thankful that he even gets to play, but at the same time I also feel confused by it all,” Cournoyer said.

Cournoyer said she’s not alone among parents at the rink in wondering why safety measures that are now commonplace in grocery stores and other public spaces can’t be tried out in arenas.

“I think the majority of parents would be fine with sitting six feet away with a mask on if it means they can cheer their kid on,” she said. “I feel like so much of our joy has just been shut off and it’s going to come with devastating consequences.”

BC Hockey is among the organizations that reports to viaSport, and has been working on a return-to-play plan alongside Hockey Canada and other organizations since March.

Bill Greene, chair of the board for BC Hockey, said he’s spoken with parents and understands their frustration. He called the protocols around spectators “less than ideal,” but necessary given the expectations of a second COVID-19 wave that’s becoming more realized by the day.

“I actually like the idea that (parents) are enthusiastic about wanting to be there and engage with their kids, but for us, the most important thing is the players and player safety,” Greene said. “We felt it was more important to focus on the players, to get them back on the ice.”

The resumption of minor hockey games in the Okanagan isn’t to be taken for granted, Greene said. Last week, the provincial health officer issued additional COVID-19 restrictions in the Lower Mainland. Where sport is concerned, the order restricts anyone from taking part in an indoor sport unless the sport involves no physical contact between participants.

And elsewhere in the country, minor hockey leagues find themselves benched for at least the remainder of 2020.

“A great example is the Greater Toronto Hockey League. They have 44,000 members and they are all at home. None of them are playing,” Greene said.

Greene said BC Hockey is working daily to stay on top of the latest changes in public health recommendations and hopes parents understand that they and the organization share the same goal.

“It’s not forever,” he said. “We’ll do what we can, and as soon as we can get people back in the rink to enjoy watching their kids play then we’re all for it.”

READ MORE: Chilliwack hockey parents want to be back in the arena


Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
Email me at Brendan.Shykora@vernonmorningstar.com
Follow us: Facebook | Twitter

BC Minor HockeyCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

Interior Health reported 79 new cases of COVID-19 and two new death in the region Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Ben Hohenstatt/Juneau Empire)
79 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths reported in Interior Health

Both of Friday’s deaths were both recorded at long-term care homes

Veteran Henry Kriwokon has his photo taken by the Western as he celebrates his 99th birthday with friends at the Cellar in Downtown Penticton. (Brennan Phillips - Penticton Western News)
Turning 101, Penticton veteran looks back on life

Henry Kriwokon was one of the soldiers in the famous ‘Wait for me, Daddy’ photo

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

Auldin Maxwell stacks the 693rd block on the top of record-breaking Jenga tower on Nov. 29 2020. (Submitted)
Salmon Arm boy rests world-record attempt on single Jenga brick

Auldin Maxwell, 12, is now officially a Guinness world record holder.

(Hal Brindley - Dreamstime)
Enderby farmers caught between coyotes and bylaw tickets

The Smith family is stuck in a Catch-22 between protecting their livestock and incurring noise complaints

A COVID-19 exposure has been confirmed at Black Mountain Elementary in Kelowna Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. (Google Image)
Another COVID-19 exposure confirmed at Kelowna school

Interior Health confirmed an exposure at Black Mountain Elementary School Saturday

Members of BCEHS Station 343 in Lake Country receive a donation of treats and wine from the community in December. (Contributed)
‘Unexpected and heartwarming’: Okanagan community supports paramedics

Cards, discounts, treats, more given to Lake Country paramedics in sign of support

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The North Okanagan Naturalists' Club completed its annual swan and eagle counts Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021. (Claude Rioux - NONC photo)
North Okanagan bird count shows decrease in swan and eagle numbers

Trumpeter swans were down 61 per cent from last year’s count; eagles down 14 per cent

Okanagan Indian Band Chief Byron Louis has served as the band’s chief since his first of six electoral wins in 1991. (File photo)
Okanagan Indian Band seeks nominations for upcoming election

A new OKIB chief and council will be elected March 30, 2021

Most Read