Local minor hockey is looking for a few good men and women.

The Fusion Eastern Prescott Russell Minor Hockey Association is in need of more coaches and volunteers at all levels as it prepares for a COVID-19 modified 2020-21 season. The extra personnel is required due to a greater number of teams with fewer players, along with increased health and safety requirements.

“There’s not going to be a season like normal – it’s going to be teams of eight players, plus one or two goaltenders,” said EPRMHA President Jessica Lalonde. “We’re going to do cohorts (bubbles) of four teams and they’re going to play against each other only. With teams of eight players, instead of 15, we will need more people.”

The upcoming season will be divided into two sessions. Session 1 will take place from October to December for all levels other than U7. The start date of U7 remains to be determined.

Each level from U9 through U18 will contain four bubbles, each of which will have four teams playing each other. The separation of teams and players will allow for better contact tracing, should any cases of COVID-19 be detected.

Despite the new regulations and the pandemic, the EPRMHA has seen only a small drop in the number of players whose parents signed them up for 2020-21.

“We’re about 40 kids down compared to last year, so we have over 200 – we’re really happy about that,” Lalonde observed.

The EPRMHA released it’s Return-to-Play document on Thursday, September 25. The document outlines all of the fees, regulations and plans for the upcoming season.

The association has scheduled conditioning sessions for all divisions from U9 to U18 to begin on October 13, with tryouts commencing the week of October 26th. Sessions will be broken into groups of a maximum of 20 players and four coaches. All of the plans depend on the province of Ontario remaining in Stage 3.

The season plans will remain in a state of flux, as the EPRMHA executive evaluates changing conditions and provincial regulations enacted due to the pandemic over the next three months.

“We will re-evaluate for January, because maybe by then we’ll be back to normal hockey,” Lalonde said hopefully.

Parents and volunteers will have significant roles to play in the upcoming season, both in observing the new regulations and extra work. The reaction so far has been very positive.

“The parents have been good and they’ve been really, really patient” Lalonde noted. “I haven’t been getting 100 emails a day from parents asking about what’s going on – they’ve been very understanding.”

Anyone who would like to help out as a coach or volunteer can visit the EPRMHA webpage or the association’s Facebook page for more information.