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’.
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.
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The NCHL – A Better Way to Play!