The world has changed, and along with it our beloved game. What to expect of hockey in a post-pandemic world.
By Warren Tabachnick
The pandemic of 2020 took its toll on every aspect of life, all across the globe. And our beloved game of hockey was no exception.
With life now slowly returning to some degree of normalcy, thoughts of suiting up for a game of hockey will soon become a reality. But what can you expect and how should you prepare for the new world order on the ice?
For hockey players, much of what we can anticipate as we return to the ice largely depends on where we are on the pandemic curve. As ice rinks become operational once again, to avoid contracting the virus or infecting someone else, social distancing likely will find its way into the game.
Until the virus can be contained (and hopefully eliminated), your team might consider the wearing of masks in the locker room, while maintaining a safe distance from your teammates. Limiting the number of players on the roster would keep the bench less crowded; the result might mean a higher price to play but the benefit would be a lower risk of disease transmission.
As to how wearing a mask during game play would be received is anyone’s guess. But it’s likely that more hockey players will consider using full face shields on the ice. No doubt the sharing of water bottles will no longer be acceptable, as is the practice of spitting on the ice. The league together with your team captain will discuss the implementation of safe practices.
In the article “Covid-19 vs. the Minor Hockey Communities,” by Michael Orlotti, several proposals were suggested on how minor hockey can resume play for the upcoming 2020-2021 season. These ideas were made under the COVID-19 guidelines set forth by Canada’s Ontario provincial government:
- Each person entering the rink should have his or her temperature taken
- All players must replace their cage and wear full visors. Goalies will be exempted.
- Water bottles should be metal and must have a lid covering the spout and players’ names on them
- Players are asked to dress as much as they can at home
- Each team should use two dressing rooms to ensure social distancing
- Games should be spaced 30 minutes apart
- Dressing rooms and the players’ bench should be cleaned with a disinfectant mist before, during, and after each game
- More hand washing after the game
According to Orlotti, another important thing to consider is the fact that many arenas don’t have adequate hot water, nor do they replenish their soap containers often enough. He emphasizes there will be a need to ensure there is access to ways for hockey players to properly disinfect.
Orlotti further notes that the medical science to date indicates that the coronavirus can be spread through droplets when someone coughs or sneezes [or even through talking]. The good news is that so far there is no evidence the disease spreads through sweat. Therefore, basic hygiene practices should be enforced after a game or practice. “I think any hockey mom will agree to encourage more hand washing after [a game of] hockey,” says Orlotti.
In the years I’ve been playing hockey, I’ve seen teammates pull jerseys out of their hockey bags that have never seen the inside of a washing machine. It goes without saying that hockey in a post-pandemic world will see us pay closer attention to keeping our socks and jerseys clean, and our equipment disinfected.
In a recent survey here at CrossIceHockey.com, our readers were asked their thoughts about the post-game handshake line, both pre- and post-pandemic. According to the results, in the pre-pandemic days over 50% would shake hands after the game, gloves off. These days, with the coronavirus turning the world upside down, 65% would rather fist bump with their gloves on.
Until all that is sorted out, the best thing for you to do is get yourself back into game shape. Ease your way into stretching those muscles you use to play hockey: your legs, your arms, and most especially, your core. Pump up your cardio with some bicycling or running—or even some walking. And don’t overlook your hockey equipment: Get your skates sharpened; check your pads and helmet for wear; and give your gear a good airing out.
Will life ever be the same as before? Only time will tell. In the meantime, as you ready yourself for hockey in a post-pandemic world and make your way back onto the ice, you will want to keep yourself—and your teammates—healthy and safe.
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