It was a busy start to the New Year at the Calgary West Soccer Centre in northwest Calgary.
Eighty-three youth teams from across Alberta played at the annual Winter Classic Tournament. With the surge in Omicron variant cases — some parents and players were surprised that it was held this year.
“I was a little surprised with the schools not going back. But I think it’s really positive for the kids to continue this and continue playing,” said Courtney Dias who travelled from Edmonton for her daughter to play in the tournament.
Capacity at the Calgary West Soccer Centre is now limited to 50 per cent, which means only one spectator, per player is allowed in the facility.
Proof of vaccination is required to get in and masks are required to be worn at all times for spectators and players. Team officials and referees can remove their masks when actively on the field.
No food and drink services are open and the consumption of food is not permitted on-site because of the restrictions announced in late December.
Hockey fans were disappointed with the cancellation of annual the Mac’s U18 AAA tournament and the World Juniors tournament.
World Juniors cancelled in Edmonton, Red Deer due to COVID-19 cases
However, Hockey Calgary released an updated information bulletin on Dec. 31 stating all league games commencing Jan. 2, 2022, will operate as scheduled and that Esso Minor Hockey Week — which is scheduled to start on Jan. 7 — will operate with the opening ceremonies to be scaled down.
In the bulletin, Hockey Calgary also reminds families of the importance of mask requirements.
“Many of these requirements were put in place in late August but over the course of the last four months, we have noticed a reduction in compliance to these restrictions,” Hockey Calgary stated.
The organization is now requiring all coaches and team staff to wear a mask at all times while on and off the ice. This includes the dressing room area and the player’s bench.
Referees have been directed to stop the game and ask coaches to put on a mask or leave the bench if they fail to follow the mask requirement.
Coaches must also wear a mask at all times when on the ice during practice time.
Parents at the weekend soccer tournament in Calgary said they were happy that kids are still in the game, despite the return to school being delayed.
“We were a bit tentative at first but we can’t ignore the social needs for children. Sports is an emotional and physical outlet. Exercise is really key for mental health,” Darla Wutzke said.
Terrence Kowalchuk is both a parent and assistant coach who travelled with his family from Medicine Hat to attend the tournament.
“For young people, mental health is so important right now. Opportunities for kids to get together and to play and have fun,” Kowalchuk said.
“The organizing committee did an amazing job. They kept the players safe and the officials safe. It was a great experience for our boys.”
Esso Golden Ring tournament cancelled
The Esso Golden Ring tournament has been cancelled because of uncertainty surrounding increasing COVID-19 infection numbers. The tournament was scheduled for Jan. 14-16 in Calgary.
There were to be 163 teams slated to compete in the Esso Golden Ring. Of the teams registered to participate, 46 of them were travelling from within Alberta while 18 were from out of province.
In a statement, the tournament committee said they were devastated by making the announcement.
“The health and safety of our participants, is of course, important to us but with the Omicron variant increasing in case numbers, it was leading to more and more individuals who were faced with mandated isolation requirements,” said tournament chair, Kate Coolidge.
“We couldn’t predict which teams would be forced to withdraw, which pools would be left short and whether we would be able to replace any volunteer or refereeing shifts left empty.”
Coolidge added Ringette Calgary has had a fairly regular season to date with many tournaments taking place over the 2021/22 season.
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