DRAFTING THE BEST WINTER SCHEDULE FOR YOUR HOCKEY TEAM THE EASY WAY

You want choice. Who doesn’t? This is why we let you choose your own winter hockey schedule that is best for your team. In the next 5 minutes or so we will explain how the schedule draft works.

Not be confused, we assume that you have done the following (otherwise what we tell you next won’t make any sense)

Ok now that we got this out of the way, lets get into the meat and potatoes of the schedule draft.

Sometime in August, after we closed team registration we will look at the list of all teams that signed up, and build what is called the deposit order. It is simply the ordering of teams by when they have paid their required deposit based on the schedule plan chosen. The sooner you paid it, the higher you are on the list.

The deposit is comprised of money paid by players plus any additional credits the team may have (keep) on account from previous seasons, minus anything outstanding (owed by the team).

Now, a team may have enough money in credits on account at the time of registration that cover the needed deposit amount. We will take the timestamp of when the team registered as the time of deposit. (PRO TIP: this is a very good reason why you may want to keep money on account between seasons)

Why is this important? We use the deposit order to determine how teams pick their schedules for the winter. The team with the very first overall deposit will have a chance to select first out of all of the ice times we have available, continue reading to see how it all works.

At the same time as our accounting department is building the deposit order, our ops department is working hard on compiling all suitable ice times that can be selected as home ice.

A few days before the draft we will send this ice matrix to all team GMs who have selected Home Ice Premium or Home Ice schedule plans. This is done so that you can rank each ice time based on how much you like it.

After you received the ice matrix and have ranked all your choices based on how much you like them you are ready for the draft.

Typically the draft happens in a room (ok a bar) with all ice times displayed on the big screen for everyone there to see. All team GMs are invited to this event regardless of the schedule plan you picked, and you will see in a moment why. Now days, we may have to do the draft virtually via zoom or some other means to minimize exposure.

The schedule draft starts with the very first team in the deposit order list, regardless of the schedule plan chosen. They paid their money the quickest and so they get the first dibs on choosing what to do with their draft position. This is the only way we can make the process fair for everyone given the limited amount of good winter ice times available.

If the team at the top of the order did not choose Home Ice Premium schedule plan, we will ask them if they want to upgrade to Home Ice Premium on the spot, so they can make a selection. (but in reality there is almost no intensive to be first in the deposit order with a Regular schedule plan, unless it was a mistake).

Home Ice Premium teams get the best available ice times, so if the team in question does not upgrade, we will move on to the next team in the deposit order, and the next team will now have a chance to pick their schedule for the winter.

We continue this process until all Home Ice Premium teams have chosen their ice slots, skipping any non Home Ice Premium teams in the deposit order (remember, each team that did not choose Home Ice Premium but is high in the deposit order will have a chance to upgrade to grab that ice time they really want).

Next we go back to the remaining Home Ice teams starting at the top of the deposit order again. We repeat the process we followed with Home Ice Premium teams only now for the Home Ice teams, until all these teams have made their selections.

Yes, if you were late with your deposit and do not see anything on the board you think is worth the money you can downgrade on the spot as well to a cheaper schedule plan and save some money. But you can’t downgrade after the draft is finished. See why below.

Once the draft is finished for teams that wanted a home ice type schedule (home ice means 50% or more of the games will be played at the same time, on the same night at the same arena), we will set the divisions for the season. All teams now will be placed in divisions. This will determine what Regular schedules are available for remaining non home ice teams to choose from.

Effectively it will limit the Regular teams to 3-4 schedules in their division. Once again we will go back to the deposit order to see who will select first in their division. Not all Regular schedules are made equal, so being higher on the deposit order still makes sense!

As soon as we have placed all the teams in divisions and have all schedule selections returned to us from the Regular teams we can build the master hockey schedule.

This is why we have to close team registration about 30 days before the start of the hockey season. We need enough time to do the work on the master schedule, catch mistakes and fix unexpected problems so that we can release the schedule for everyone at the same time.

So if having the best schedule for your team is important, register and pay your deposit as quickly as you can. You will have the most choice if you are first.

Playing Recreational Ice Hockey In A New World – Alberta COVID-19 Stage 2 Rules and Regulations Interpreted

On Tuesday June 9th, 2020 Premier Kenny announced that Alberta will effectively enter Stage 2 of the relaunch strategy as of Friday June 12th, 2020. Luckily for us, hockey nuts, arenas were moved from Stage 3 into Stage 2 of the relaunch and can open on Friday. Don’t get us wrong, this is great news, we will finally be able to play hockey soon(ish). That is the good news.

Now, what is the actual reality of the situation? Things are little bit more nuanced than the initial headlines would suggest. Most, if not all arenas in the province will not reopen on Friday and here is why.

The province published a very detailed list of regulations outlining how hockey arenas, and organizers must manage playing hockey during Stage 2 of the relaunch. Obviously it would be really hard for players and officials to social distance on the ice, and maintain a 2 meter distance from each other, it would be impossible to wear masks during play. The new regulations do not recommend players wearing masks during the game. (we had a pretty good chuckle about masks in pools part of the regulations published)

Anyone who says otherwise, simply did not read the regulations, and listen to the answers by Dr. Hinshaw at the announcement on Tuesday.

To address this reality, the new rules allow for bubble cohorts, or as the regulations call them, mini-leagues of 50 people, who are participating in hockey. Once a player is assigned to their bubble cohort they are not allowed to belong to another cohort all together.

We can guess the rationale for this is that by being confined to your bubble cohort of players, the spread will be limited in nature as opposed to the situation where players are allowed to intermingle with other players from a different bubble cohort. Also should there occur an infection within a cohort it would be easier to trace its origin and nip the outbreak in the bud. All reasonable.

This presents a unique set of challenges we must address as a league. 50 people in a cohort means officials too, who are not allowed to be part of a different bubble cohort once they are assigned to one. As you can see, this now limits the number of players you can have on your team, and also the number of teams we can have in a cohort. Anyone who says otherwise, simply did not read the regulations, and listen to the answers by Dr. Hinshaw at the announcement on Tuesday.

The reason why almost no ice hockey arenas will open this Friday is simple. Most if not all rinks in Alberta took their ice out when they realized that there is a real possibility of a prolonged lock-down back in April.

4 teams per bubble cohort seems to make the most sense to us, three does not work so well with needing to have a bye week, two is not enough competition, and lets not even consider one team as an option.

With 4 teams in the cohort, each team can have at most 12 players, but in reality is more like 11 (including a goalie) because there needs to be room for officials and in order to have 2 officials on the ice, we would need to have 4 in the cohort to make sure we staff the games properly and have enough of a buffer should an official become unavailable for a game.

There are many other details in the regulations we must deal with before safely returning to play. Your health and safety and the health and safety of our officials (referees and scorekeepers), our staff, facility staff, as well as anyone else that will be taking part in our offerings is paramount.

No one knows the future and we don’t pretend to either …

In our view, proceeding slower is better than rushing into things without considering all that is required, and while we want to get on the ice as quickly as possible, we need to do this safely, so that we don’t contribute to the spread of COVID. At the end of the day we all want to be playing hockey this winter, and it is the last thing we’d want to see, AHS shutting down arenas again. There is no need to get into the impacts of that outcome, but kids would be devastated if they could not play hockey come winter.

The reason why almost no ice hockey arenas will open this Friday is simple. Most if not all rinks in Alberta took their ice out when they realized that there is a real possibility of a prolonged lock-down, back in April. Why keep the ice in when no one is using it, it just cost money (electricity is not free) especially as the days get warmer. So they took their ice out. Smart.

It will take arena operators a bit of time to put the ice back in, some of the challenges we are hearing about, are with equipment and supplies needed as everyone rushes to reopen. Things like pressure washers, ice paint and a multitude of other things you need to reopen. On top of this, there are new regulations for arenas from AHS as well, in regards to what they must do as facility operators to reopen safely. It would suffice to say they will need boatloads of hand sanitizer and PPE. All this takes time.

At the end of the day we all want to be playing hockey this winter, and it is the last thing we’d want to see, AHS shutting down arenas again.

Another thing facility managers must consider are the user groups and bookings in light of the new regulations. Will the bookings needs to be more spaced out between each other? What is a realistic start date after you take into account the challenges of putting the ice back in, and how much time each user group will need to get organized before they can start offering their programs? All these are questions that must be answered now, and it will take time to put the plans together and in motion, so that arenas can reopen safely.

Based on our discussions with arena operators it is a bit of a mixed bag, some are going to open mid July (15-20), while others may not open this summer at all, and be prepared to go in the fall. Even the City of Calgary is not exactly clear on when they will be reopening arenas under their management. City of Edmonton is not taking any bookings until June 30th, and may not take any after.

Yes, things are not as simple as pie when it comes to the realities of what we have to deal with, but we are working very hard on offering a condensed summer season which may look something like this (please do not hold us to it until we announce the details and open registration but this is what it looks like for now).

World Cup style, round robin (3 games), semis and final

5 game season

4 teams per bubble cohort

11 players per team (10 skaters and 1 goalie)

Will start mid July and will go to the end of August

We still have some details to sort out but we hope we have everything ready to go for the summer season by the end of the week. We have existing contracts with arenas that we signed before COVID hit everyone, and have the first right of refusal on ice when arenas reopen. Some arenas may not reopen or may reopen too close to the end of summer, we need to understand these realities and finalize our summer ice bookings before we can open registration for teams. Our staff is in constant communications with arenas.

It would be pointless to take your money so that 5 minutes later we have to turn around and refund it. Instead we want to crystallize all details first so that everyone knows what to expect and what is possible, then open registration. In our opinion this would be the smart way to go about in an uncertain situation.

As far as the winter season goes, we are also working on season details, we hope that by then we will be out of Stage 2, and play can resume as before (no, or little restrictions in place). No one knows the future and we don’t pretend to either, this is why we decided to offer a shorter summer season, and re-evaluate things for September. We are planning to have a regular season then, but if things do not work as we think they will, we will adjust to the environment we are in. Shorter season is also safer for you the player.

Information about Winter 2020-21 Season will be coming out next week. Teams that have pre-registered will have a 48 hour window to complete registration and set up their deposits to secure their place for the ice draft (we picked up some pretty awesome ice times for winter).

This is all that we know for now. We will share more as details emerge.

Stay healthy, and safe! We’ll see you on the ice soon.

The NCHL – A Better Way To Play!

Return To Hockey Could Happen This Summer In Alberta – New COVID Regulations Released By The Province

Yesterday Alberta Premier, Jason Kenney announced that Stage 2 of the relaunch strategy will start on Friday, June 12th. The Premier also announced that organized sports and hockey rinks are now included in Stage 2 with restrictions.

This is great news! It means that we may be able to have hockey this summer after all. Hockey with restrictions is better than no hockey, any day of the week!

Some of the regulations announced by health authorities talk about set cohorts of 50 people where social distancing is not possible. Hockey falls into this category. The regulations say that these cohorts (mini-leagues) must stay together for the duration of the organized spots activity during Stage 2(read season).

We are still digesting all of the regulations put forward by the government yesterday (there are many, you can see what they are yourself here) so we can find a sustainable path forward to offer hockey to you and your teammates in a safe environment.

The health, safety and well being of our players and league officials is our number one priority.

We must be able to minimize the risk to everyone, if we can not play hockey safely within regulations provided by the government, we would rather not have hockey at all until it is safe to play (as much as it would pain us).

As we write this message to you, we are working as quickly as we can with our facility partners to put a plan in place for both the Winter Season, and possibly a version of a Summer Season starting as soon as there is ice to skate on.

Most if not all arenas took their ice out for summer once it became clear that a lock-down will be in place for an unforeseeable amount of time.

It will take arenas some time to get organized, put their ice back in and make sure facility and staff are compliant with new regulations put forward by the health authorities. We all want the same thing, return of play in a safe environment.

Once there is a plan that addresses all of the new regulations in place, we will be sending out another message announcing the details, so please stay tuned to your email and our social media.

The good news is, somehow, someway hockey will be back!

We look forward to getting back on the ice as soon as we can!

The NCHL – A Better Way To Play!

Pre-Register For Winter 2020-21 Today!

While good news has been hard to come by the last couple months, we hope that this news can cheer you up!

As of today we are opening a pre-registration for the Winter 2020-21 Season. We do not have any dates for the season (though we will aim for our regular September start), and we are not looking for any money down from you. This idea is just to guarantee teams a spot in the league and also gives us a better idea of how many teams we will have this winter.

With all of the economic uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 situation, multiple leagues have folded in the cities that we operate in. With so many teams looking for a new home, we might have to cap our team amount, and this is the only way to guarantee your spot. The best part is it will cost you $0!

There is also another advantage to signing up. While the order you pre-register does not matter for schedule selection in the fall, it will give you an exclusive 48 hours to sign up your team when we do open full registration. This means you can get in before all the teams that did not pre-register!

GMs can pre-register by going to www.BreakoutPlay.com, selecting your city, and then choosing the Winter 2020-21 Pre-Registration Season.

Thank you,

The NCHL – A Better Way To Play!

NCHL Summer 2020 Season Cancelled

It comes with a heavy heart that as of April 30th, the NCHL Summer 2020 Season is officially cancelled. With no timelines for arenas reopening, we don’t see any way to return with any semblance of a Summer Season as we know it. It will be the first time in 15 years that we are not going to have a Summer Season.

This does not mean that we cannot have any hockey this summer! We are keeping our ears to the ground to find out when rinks will be open and operational again. When this happens we will be first to secure ice and try to schedule a mini season, a tournament, or something else so that we can play at least some hockey this summer.

As for the money you have paid for the Summer 2020 Season, you have two options as a team: Your GM can get a full refund, or you can keep your team’s credit on account, and your team will receive a $100 bonus credit when we return to hockey*. All credits will automatically be moved over and applied to the next invoice, but if you would like to get a refund instead, please fill out this form: https://crsdc.formstack.com/forms/nchl_refund_request_summer_2020

Keep in mind that if you ask for a refund, you will lose your team’s $100 bonus credit.

*Your team must have at least $1000 on account to receive the $100 bonus credit.

We are also working hard to have a pre-registration open on May 1st for the Winter 2020-21 Season. We will not be accepting any deposits or payments. We know how tough these times have been on everyone, and money for winter hockey is not a priority right now for most players. If you are planning to have a team in the winter, pre-register tomorrow, there will be a good benefit to doing so! More details will be available tomorrow.

We thank you for your patience and for being a part of the NCHL!

The NCHL – A Better Way To Play

NCHL 2019-20 Winter Credit Update

Hello NCHL family,

Last month we had to make the unfortunate decision to cancel the rest of the NCHL 2019-20 Winter Season. With games still remaining for teams, we decided that we would credit everyone with extra games next Winter Season. Since then, we have received feedback from our customers and we have decided that instead of extra games, most customers would rather receive a credit towards their account.

Team accounts will now be credited for their regular season games that were cancelled, plus the 1 playoff game each team is guaranteed. If you are a team GM and would like to receive a refund, please email us at accounting@nchl.com. Please note that all refunds will be subject to a $50 processing fee.

Thank you for your patience and for being a part of the NCHL. We look forward to getting back on the ice!

NCHL Officially Cancels Winter 2019-2020 Hockey Season In Calgary, Edmonton, Richmond and Grande Prairie

On Friday March 13th, 2020 we made the difficult decision to suspend all NCHL, Discover Hockey and Draft Tournament activities, essentially hitting pause on everything we do and joined the fight to flatten the curve. This was one of the hardest things we have had to do in the past 15 years.

The simple truth is, we love hockey, in fact we are a little nuts about it. We love sharing this passion for the game with you on a nightly basis, but your well being is our number one priority. So while we all want to be out there, carving up the ice and scoring goals, we can’t risk spreading the virus.

We appreciate your help and commitment in joining us in this fight by staying at home and limiting contact with others, because the sooner we all stop the spread, the sooner we can get back on the ice and play the game we all love.

Given this new normal we had come to the unwanted conclusion that we are running out of time to complete the regular season and play out the playoffs. We just don’t know when the arenas will open again, and it makes it impossible to plan the playoffs under this level of uncertainty.

We also understand that your season was cut short due to circumstances outside of anyone’s control. Some of you had three games to play and some had as many as five more guaranteed games remaining.

We are all in it together and we are trying as best we can to find our way through it.

After spending a considerable amount of time reviewing our policies and thinking about what we can do to treat everyone fairly, we have decided we will make up all guaranteed games you did not get this winter hockey season (winter 2019-20) in the upcoming winter hockey season (winter 2020-21) by increasing the number of games you will be playing next winter, because after all, we all want to continue playing hockey.

And so with a heavy heart we must inform you that winter 2019-20 hockey season is now officially cancelled.

Thank you for your patience and support during these difficult times, it is greatly appreciated and we will get through it together.

We have set up a special link where we will be positing answers to your frequent questions, please check there before sending us an email as we are not equipped to handle a large volume of customer interactions resulting from the current situation – http://www.nchl.com/covid-19-faq/

We hope to see you all on the ice sooner than later.

NCHL Winter Hockey Season Cancelled Due To COVID-19

On Friday, March 13th we made the difficult decision to suspend all NCHL, Discover Hockey and Draft Tournament activities, essentially hitting pause on everything we do and joined the fight to flatten the curve. This was one of the hardest things we have had to do in the past 15 years.

The simple truth is, we love hockey, in fact we are a little nuts about it. We love sharing this passion for the game with you on a nightly basis, but your well being is our number one priority. So while we all want to be out there, carving up the ice and scoring goals, we can’t risk spreading the virus.

We appreciate your help and commitment in joining us in this fight by staying at home and limiting contact with others, because the sooner we all stop the spread, the sooner we can get back on the ice and play the game we all love.

Given this new normal we had come to the unwanted conclusion that we are running out of time to complete the regular season and play out the playoffs. We just don’t know when the arenas will open again, and it makes it impossible to plan the playoffs under this level of uncertainty.

We also understand that your season was cut short due to circumstances outside of anyone’s control. Some of you had three games to play and some had as many as five more guaranteed games remaining.

We are all in it together and we are trying as best we can to find our way through it.

After spending a considerable amount of time reviewing our policies and thinking about what we can do to treat everyone fairly, we have decided we will make up all guaranteed games you did not get this winter hockey season (winter 2019-20) in the upcoming winter hockey season (winter 2020-21) by increasing the number of games you will be playing next winter, because after all, we all want to continue playing hockey.

And so with a heavy heart we must inform you that winter 2019-20 hockey season is now officially cancelled.

Thank you for your patience and support during these difficult times, it is greatly appreciated and we will get through it together.

We have set up a special link where we will be positing answers to your frequent questions, please check there before sending us an email as we are not equipped to handle a large volume of customer interactions resulting from the current situation – http://www.nchl.com/covid-19-faq/

We hope to see you all on the ice sooner than later.

The NCHL – A Better Way To Play!

COVID-19 – Frequently Asked Questions – What happens next?

The truth of the matter is no one know what happens next, this is an unprecedented situation so all we can do is take the wait and see approach. At some point the world will return to normal, and social distancing/isolation will end.

We do not know when this will happen, and at the moment no one does. But we are monitoring the situation on an hourly basis and will keep you updated once we have more information on anything that may affect you and your team.

Please continue checking back at http://www.nchl.com/covid-19-faq/

We will post what we know there as we do not have the capacity to respond to every single inquiry in a timely manner as most of the inquiries are about the same questions.

COVID-19 UPDATE: How it affects your NCHL ice hockey schedule

We continue to regularly monitor concerns associated with coronavirus (COVID-19) and wanted to take a moment to provide an update as it relates to NCHL activities.

Our top priority, as you know, is the safety of everyone involved with the NCHL.

The Public Health Agency of Canada currently assesses the public health risk associated with COVID-19 as low for Canada and for Canadian travellers.

Public health risk is continually assessed as new information becomes available. Updates on COVID-19 can be found at: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection.html

At this time, all arenas and recreation facilities that we have spoken to are still open for activities.

We have not been ordered to pause the NCHL schedule.

We ask that all players and officials use judgment while attending games in the foreseeable future and follow the following recommended procedures.

• Practice frequent and meticulous hand-washing with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands

• Cover your nose and mouth when coughing and/or sneezing with a tissue or flexed elbow

• Avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms

• Quarantine anyone who is sick (players, coaches, roommates etc.)

• Ensure safe food sources; thoroughly cook meat and eggs

• Handshake lines after games should include fist bumps with gloves on or elblow touches

• Use individual water bottles; do not share them

• Towels should not be shared in any way

Multiple hockey organization throughout the world have posted some guidelines for staying healthy on an off the ice. Dr. Michael Stuart from the Mayo Clinic, who is also a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation Medical Committee, has shared the importance that everyone follow the guidelines above and regularly visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization websites for additional information.

We are in constant communication with various forms of government and facility operators and will update you as soon as the situation changes.

At this time, all games are still scheduled to proceed as normal.

The NCHL – A Better Way to Play