Although shut down for now, organizers, parents and players in the local Fusion Eastern Prescott Russell Minor Hockey Association are hoping to resume play before the end of the season.
“We would like to put the kids back on the ice, but will it be possible? We don’t know,” said EPRMHA President Jessica Lalonde, in an interview Thursday, January 21.
Fusion league players come from both the Hawkesbury and Vankleek Hill areas, playing out of the arenas in each community. Play began in October, with teams grouped into bubbles of four.
The league was also able to organize out-of-town play in St. Isidore, before stricter Ontario COVID-19 regulations shut down minor hockey in the province after Christmas. The shutdown was a disappointment, as the league’s executive, volunteers and parents had worked very hard to make the 2020-21 season a success.
“Honestly, it was really, really great,” Lalonde enthused. “The volunteers and the executive were working together – it was awesome. Everyone stepped up.”
“That’s why we were a bit discouraged when they shut us down after Christmas, because it was going so well – we had no cases, nothing.”
Lalonde said arena management in both Hawkesbury and Vankleek Hill have been patient, as the league waits for news on if or when play can restart. “The two municipalities are being great – they’re extending our dates and they’re waiting for us.”
A return to Fusion hockey for a second time this season would be much simpler than when play first started up again in October. Parents and organizers now have experience at dealing with COVID-19 safety protocols and the equipment and required documentation for the players is all in place. The only questions which remain are if and when.
“Will we be able to go back on (February 10)? That’s one thing,” Lalonde said. “If we do, will we go back to Stage 2 – which will mean way more restrictions – or will it be like before Christmas.”
Part of the decision may depend on how long both municipalities can maintain the arenas in Vankleek Hill and Hawkesbury in a holding pattern.
“If they say ‘we can’t wait any more, we need an answer, then we will have to make a decision, but for now they’ve been very patient,” said Lalonde, who hopes to receive more information at a Hockey Eastern Ontario District meeting this week. “Everyone is anxious to go back. We’re hoping for good news.”