Hockey: how will pandemic change it?


Hockey is Canada’s national sport, but it looks like the pandemic might chance hockey as we know it.

Hockey: the national winter sport of Canada. A physical and passionate contact sport, followed by millions all across the world. And today, at least at minor league level, it could change because of one of the deadliest pandemics in history: that of COVID-19.

Authorities decided to pull the plug on Hockey in March, but there’s no reassurance anything can restart in September. A return to the ice, as many envision it, won’t be feasible until at least October. And even in October, much will need to change about this contact sport to ensure the lowering of outbreak risk.

5 on 5 hockey, for example, might disappear at least for now, with most age groups switching to 4 on 4 hockey or even 3 on 3. No face-offs, no 3 periods, but just 2 long ones. Each team will start a period in possession of the puck. Even after scoring, there won’t be a face-off. The scored-on team will just return in possession of the puck.

These are just some of the changes which the new Game Plan highlights. Figures within hockey organisations have revealed just how stressful the situation is. ‘I think everyone is suffering a little bit from covid-fatigue’, says Peter Woods from Hockey Manitoba. Others underline that there are still, as of today, too many unknowns to just set a date and make it work for everybody.

There are some who are raising their eyebrows. Hockey is a contact sport: its played physically and with the support of fans on the stands. According to new regulations, physical contact between players should be reduced to minimum, and no parents or team fans will be allowed in the stands. This means the game itself might look nothing like the sport we remember fondly.