HELLO, I HAVE A QUESTION AND WE HAVE ALL ANSWERS ABOUT WINTER HOCKEY IN ALBERTA

We recently published how we are going to play this winter season with full (16 player) rosters here and have received many questions about it, please see the answers below.

How many players can I have on my roster this winter?

We are getting lots of questions about the size of a teams roster and what is/is not allowed for play during Stage 2 Relaunch.

The answer to this question is two part, please read it carefully.

On Ice Roster’– your team can ice a total of 16 players from your Paid Team Roster (see below) per schedule rotation (4 games) based on the AHS cohort rules. These are the only 16 players that may participate in game play for that specific schedule rotation. In addition to these players, your team may also use spares from the other teams in your schedule cohort during the schedule rotation you are in.

For example you may play your first game with 11 players (10 skaters and a goalie because that is all you could get to come out from your “Paid Team Roster”), then for your second game you may have 13 players, but 10 of them are the same as the ones you had our for game one, and three are “new players”. 

You now have room for 3 other players to bring to game three from your “Paid Team Roster”. Lets say you need a spare goalie and two spare skaters for game three, you have now used all of your “Paid Team Roster” players for the schedule rotation. For game four you will now need to use only players from your On Ice Roster or from the other team you are not playing in your cohort. 

You should probably leave yourself some room for a spare goalie on the On Ice Roster for game four in the set if you are concerned you will need a spare. 

After the 4 game rotation is finished, cohorts can be reset and On Ice Roster will be as well. Players must isolate from play for 2 weeks during the break.

Paid Team Roster’ – Although each team can only ice 16 players per schedule rotation of 4 games, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a larger roster of paid players. Lots of teams have larger rosters to help manage league fees however it is unlikely that these teams have all members in attendance every game.  

After each schedule rotation of 4 games, teams enter into their “quarantine period” of 14 days (minimum). After the 14 day period the next schedule rotation begins, teams can start with a fresh slate of players if they choose to do so or continue with the original 16 they had in the previous schedule rotation. When cohort sizes are increased or removed all together, you will already have your rosters in place to resume the season as usual.

We know that this is not ideal but neither is trying to navigate a world in the midst of a pandemic. We heard that a bigger size of on ice rosters is extremely important to you. This is not something we chose on purpose, rather we have to work within the onerous AHS regulations placed on hockey in Alberta in general. It is the best possible option out of all sub optimal options.

The alternative is to have smaller rosters, less games, reduced parity (we are able to rejig divisions every 4 games in our format) and more expensive league fees. We believe this is a better way to play, because when things go back to normal, we don’t have to skip a beat and can resume the season without much interruption or having to expand team rosters and charge additional team fees. 

How many games will we play during the Winter 2020-21 Season? 

You will play 30 regular season games and at least 1 guaranteed playoff game. If your team continues to win, you continue playing. The final is going to be best of 3 series, same as in previous seasons. To see more details about the winter season please go here: https://www.nchl.com/winter-hockey-season-league-information-and-team-pricing/ 

What are we going to do when we need a goalie sub?

During your schedule rotation your On Ice Roster is NOT at 16 players – You may use any spare goalie. However, that goalie can not be playing on another team in a different division or anywhere else.

Once an appropriate goalie has been added to your roster, that goalie may not play for any other team outside your cohort until the current schedule rotation is complete. After the schedule rotation is complete this goalie now needs to take a 2 week break from play.

During your schedule rotation your On Ice Roster is already at 16 players – In this situation you may dress a current skater on your team as a goalie or you may ask to use one of the goalies currently playing on another team WITHIN your current cohort.

If neither of these work, each division has a couple of emergency spots. Although not a guarantee, you would try and find an appropriate “fill in” goalie after getting permission to do so from the Director of Player Safety. We will need a sufficient amount of time to organize this, so last minute goalie additions will be nearly impossible to accommodate. 

Can players play on multiple teams?

The answer to this is YES, but we need to qualify how.

If a player plays on multiple teams within the same cohort during the schedule rotation, that player can play on any team in the cohort.

If player is on multiple teams in different cohorts the answer is still yes however that player would have to commit to one team for the duration of the schedule rotation AND complete the 14 day “quarantine period”. Once that has been satisfied, the player may play for another team in a different cohort.

Why the team fees didn’t change with smaller rosters?

Prices are based on a per game basis not a per player basis, the ice costs the same if there is 1 player or 40 players on it, same is true for officials. As the season is still the same amount of games we can not change the pricing. If you are registered for a schedule package above REGULAR your team would receive credit for any games played during the Stage 2 Relaunch phase. 

In essence, during the cohort type schedule you will be receiving a REGULAR schedule. All team with HOME ICE or HOME ICE PREMIUM packages will receive credits or refunds prorated for the number of games you were downgraded and did not receive as part of your package. You will only pay for the package you receive!

I need more players to complete my Paid Team Roster, can you help?

Absolutely, there are two ways we can help. You can join the special, private FreeAgent Facebook group for your city and post a call for players on there, and/or we can also send you the spreadsheet with all available FreeAgent players we have.

Please contact us (email or the contact form on the website – https://www.nchl.com/contact/) and request access to either one, or both.

Will there be modification to on ice rules?

YES. More info to follow, we will communicate these as they are finalized.

TEAM ROSTER ENIGMA SOLVED FOR WINTER HOCKEY, AND HERE ARE THE DETAILS

We have been working in very close communication with all NCHL facilities and have been playing through many different scenarios on how we can get this upcoming season online while adhering to ‘return to play protocol’ outlined by Alberta Health & Safety, Hockey Alberta and Hockey Canada.

The good news is we have a plan!

This new plan will address two major concerns that you told us are very important to deal with. Larger roster sizes (more people per team, less fees) and secondly, larger division sizes (more teams to play against, better parity).

We are happy to announce have found a way to play hockey in as normal of an environment as allowed by the safety protocols. We will NOT have to limit divisions to four team (11 player rosters) in order to stay within cohort requirements. We will be playing 5 v 5 hockey this winter in a safe way.

How will this work?

We will be grouping teams into divisions of six teams (two groups/cohorts of three per ‘rotation’). Each team will play a series of four games in a rotation.

As teams complete their final games of the rotation they will enter into a 14-day (minimum) ‘isolation period’ while the remaining teams continue to play until they have played their four games.

Once teams have completed their isolation period, the division will be restructured with two new groups of three (one new team per group) and each team will continue again to play two games each against the teams in their grouping.

This will continue in the same manner throughout the remainder of the season or until we have word that things can return to ‘normal’.

Sounds complicated?

It is! That’s why we’re figuring it out for you, and that is why it has to taken us a while to get the details out to you. Thank you for your patience.  

It will all make sense once you have your set team schedule. The basics are: you play four games then you take a minimum 14 day break, rinse, wash, repeat.

You can have rosters of up to 16 players (per rotation), after an isolation period you can add/remove as many players as needed as long as the team roster doesn’t exceed 16 players during each rotation period.

Why is this a better solution than other options out there?

There are three very good reasons.

Firstly, fees. If you have less players on a team, the team fee has to be spread out among less players. Since it does not matter if there is 1 person or 40 people on the ice at the same time, the base cost remains the same and team fees don’t change. Less players on the team, more fees per player.

The second reason is roster sizes and spares. If you are only allowed 11 players it will surely be the case that you will need to call spares. That will be a hard thing to do on a nightly basis and actually will be impossible after a while when the space in the cohort is exhausted. In our plan after each 4 game sequence cohorts reset, and more players become available. You will also need less spares since you can use up to 16 spots per 4 game rotation.

Lastly, when things go back to normal, and restrictions are relaxed or lifted you won’t have to remake your team, charge players more to play or change anything really about your team! We will be ready to resume hockey as normal without having to turn the ship around.

Will we still have ‘Home Ice’?

Unfortunately, no. We will not be able to offer any upgraded packages at this time. All teams will have a ‘regular’ schedule which will be a mix of many different ice times, days, arenas, within their conference.

Although, you will definitely want to keep your credit on account if you have selected an upgraded package, as we will rebuild the season once we are clear to resume normal conditions. You will be able to pick your Home Ice schedule then.

Once the season has been completed, we will then issue prorated refunds to each team for the portion of the season that packages were unable to be fulfilled.

You may choose to receive a refund for the upgraded portion of your package now, but if you do, you will no longer have that package when we resume play under normal conditions, and will lose your pick position.

Will we still pick schedules?

Yes! Teams will get to choose from available schedules that have been generated specifically for their division. The team in the division with the earliest deposit order will get to pick first from a selection of six schedules, the second team will get to pick from the remaining five schedules, third will pick from the remaining four and so on.

Will there still be a schedule draft?

No. Since we have social distancing restrictions, it would be very difficult logistically to get us all together in one place at one time. Schedule selections will be sent out to all team GM’s and teams will be asked to send in their schedule selections in order of preference.

Will there be realignment?

Yes, although it will be a much more complicated procedure than it would be in a normal season, we will be moving teams as required. This may mean a possible extension of the isolation period for the teams that are moving into new divisions. During the holiday break (around Christmas) we will also look at a major realignment for all divisions if required.

Do we have to sign a special waiver?

All players will be required to ensure they have completed the most current NCHL player waiver on the Breakout app as well as the NCHL COVID-19 screening waiver.

Also, depending on which conference your team is in and where you play, you may be required to fill out an additional waiver for certain facilities.

Do we have to wear a mask?

As per Alberta Health & Safety guidelines, all league participants will be asked to wear a mask upon entering any facility and to be worn at all times within the facility except when entering the arena playing area (AHS does not recommend wearing a mask while participating in intense physical activity).

What else do we have to do to ensure we are following protocol and being safe?

Each facility is unique and may or may not have their own set of independent guidelines, rules or protocol for their facility. We will send more detailed information as required prior to season startup.

When is season startup?

The tentative first day of games for the 2020-2021 Winter season is September 10, 2020.

Lets Play Hockey!

The NCHL – A Better Way to Play!

Playing Winter Ice Hockey In A COVID World – Registration Information For Grande Prairie Teams (AKA – The Plan)

As far as plans go, someone once said everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face (Ok it was Mike Tyson and we are paraphrasing).

Mike did get one thing right, with all this uncertainty surrounding us during the great calamity called COVID-19, how can one plan anything right now? Yet we somehow have to proceed with life and hockey.

While no one knows what will happen in the future, we are operating under the assumption that hockey will be back to some kind of normal without the draconian restrictions placed on it by the vagaries of the pandemic.

Other jurisdictions do not have cohort requirements right now, in Manitoba players can play on as many teams as they want and there is no limitation on team sizes as a result.

The same is true in some places in BC (we heard through the hockey grapevine that in Victoria people have been playing beer league hockey for the past 6 weeks without cohort restrictions).

So the trend seems to be moving in the right direction in regards to what winter may look like. And thus we have decided to offer a regular winter hockey season to all our teams that will include:

  • Choose Your Schedule Option (only in the NCHL)
  • The NCHL Experience – playing hockey in a safe, fun, competitive and well organized environment
  • 30 Regular Season Games
  • 1 Guaranteed Playoff Game (every team makes the playoffs)
  • Best of 3 finals (way more games for your team)
  • 3 stop time periods, 15 minutes each
  • 2 Referees and 1 Scorekeeper at Each Game (or you get a team credit)
  • Online Stats For All Teams and Players
  • Individual Payments for Players (only in the NCHL)
  • Payment Options – one, two or monthly
  • Season Start – After September 1st, 2020
  • Season End – Before April 30th, 2021

See full season details …

“But you just said no one can tell the future, so how can you offer this and be sure it will actually happen?” you may be wondering, and rightly so. This is our plan for winter.

If for whatever reason we are not able to offer you hockey in this manner come winter, we will need to adjust so we can still play. It will come down playing hockey vs not playing hockey, and we think playing hockey is always the better choice.

So here is our promise to you, if we are not able to offer the season as outlined above, and have to adjust or cancel hockey all together you will always have the option to either get a refund for the remaining games you did not get, or keep the team fees as a credit until hockey returns.

We will work with each and every team to make sure we take care of you and the wishes of your players. The same way we did this past winter season when it was abruptly cancelled, and the summer season that never happened.

All teams that wanted a refund for games not played have been taken care of.

THE IMPORTANT STUFF

Today we are releasing the season and pricing information for winter. We had to adjust the pricing a little. Ice costs did go up, because arenas must now sanitize surfaces more often, purchase additional PPE and potentially have more staff.

Here is the link to Grande Prairie Winter Team Fees and all available schedule plans.

Registration will open on Wednesday July 8th, at noon MST.

Pre-registered teams will have until Friday July, 10th at noon MST to complete the registration and join the Winter 2020-21 NCHL-Grande-Prairie hockey season.

We strongly encourage you to provide us with a deposit at the time of registration or instructing us to apply any unused team credits on account towards your deposit.

Teams that have enough credit on account are assumed to have their deposit fully paid at the time of registration.

See important deadlines here …

If you pre-registered your team earlier when we did not know which way was up, thank you for your support!

That means you now have a 48 hour advantage over any other team that did not do so, and you can complete your registration ahead of these teams.

Why is this important?

Teams that want to get the best possible ice times we can offer for winter need to be at the top of the deposit order because this order determines the selection of your schedule for the winter season.

The team that has the highest placement in the deposit order at that point will choose first, and we will continue this process until all teams chose their schedule for the season.

What does this mean for you?

If choice is important to you, sign up and get your deposit in as quickly as you can.

Please do not wait, complete your registration ASAP and put your deposit down.

Thank you for your support during these uncertain times.

The NCHL – A Better Way To Play!

Are you throwing away $400!?

Imagine you have $400 in your pocket. What could you do with that money? Would you throw it away? Well, this is what is exactly about to happen in a few days. You will be throwing away up to $400.

“Wait, wait, wait, how am I throwing away up to $400?” By not having your team registered on Breakout for the winter hockey season! Teams that are registered in the month of May, will get extra 30 days to receive that Early Bird credit. Returning Team and Early Bird credits can add up to $400.

The best part is you don’t even need to pay anything to get the extension. Just let your fingers do the work, a couple of taps on your phone screen or the keyboard and you can easily join the winter hockey season on Breakout. It will literally take 1 minute of your day to do it, but will give you 30 extra days to bring your team invoice to zero.

But you say: “Ah I don’t know, the team might not go this winter, I don’t know if I have enough players …” or something similar. We get it, being a GM is a tough business, always be recruiting, right? (have you heard of the secret FreeAgent Facebook group where you can pick up players for the season, that is only available to NCHL GMs?)

This is why if the team does not go, simply leave the winter season or delete the team on Breakout, no sweat off your back. What is the downside? That is right, there is none.

So go online or on your app right now, before you forget, and join the Winter 2019-20 Season on Breakout with your existing team, or make a new one. Then pat yourself on the back for making a smart decision!

By the way if you already registered your team for the winter hockey season, you are awesome and we thank you! Welcome back to the NCHL – A Better Way to Play!

P.S. Teams that register by midnight (MST) May 31st, 2019 will get an Early Bird credit extension until end of day August 1st, 2019.

Lets play hockey, because, the alternative is unthinkable!

This post contains relevant information for NCHL Grande Prairie league only – Updated May 27th, 2019