For the first time in 15 years, the Best Performance Hockey Training school will not be hosting any hockey camps this summer.
The group usually holds a number of camps for different age groups throughout the last week of August, but were told there would be no ice in the local facilities by August 24.
The City of Fort St. John is projected to have ice in the Pomeroy Sports Centre by September 8, as part of Phase 3 of its recovery plan.
The Kid's Arena Field House is also set to open on September 8, with the North Peace Arena projected to open sometime in October.
Best Performance trainer Phil Hiscock said that due to schools and the Fort St. John Minor Hockey Association starting up in early September, he didn't think it would be possible to push the camps back to a later date.
"Figuring out when we could actually make it happen would be tough and I don't see that transpiring," said Hiscock. "We are heavily involved with minor hockey so I'm sure we'll be able to get some stuff going on, but we need to realize the hockey season will look much different this year than we're used to, and it will be interesting getting our heads around that."
Hiscock and his team of trainers are both frustrated and understanding of the circumstances surrounding the decision.
"To have this situation arise with the virus, and the city deciding not to have ice available until September 8, it's very disappointing to not be able to offer anything. A lot of people will be forced to, or will seek, other camps in other cities and that's disheartening," Hiscock said.
The local camps offer families a cheaper option to attend camps of this quality, as most others are more expensive and require a lot of travel. The camps are designed to help all players, both competitive and recreational, get ready for the upcoming season and work on fundamental skills, power skating, puck handling, and shooting.
There is a lot of frustration from the community — including parents, coaches, and athletes — about the city's plan to re-open facilities.
"It's a little disappointing. My nephews are at a camp in Kelowna right now, so for us not to be able to open the facilities is unfortunate," said Todd Alexander, instructor and trainer with Best Performance and coach of the Fort St. John Huskies. "These camps are for the kids and the athletes, not for myself and Phil, and they won't be able to attend this year."
The city addressed some of those concerns in a Facebook post on July 11, citing a lack of staff (due to layoffs earlier in the year), as well as the need for more safety guidelines, and training and orientation.
"We have been in regular communication with all of our user groups and will continue to work with them to ensure the safe return of activities in our numerous facilities, the city said, noting groups also need their own COVID-19 safety plans approved by their respective provincial organization.
"We know this year is unusual, and therefore the timelines on the reopening of our facilities are also exceptional; however, we look forward to welcoming you back to these facilities as soon as possible."
The lack of ice is just one of many factors that make the prospect of the coming hockey season this fall so uncertain. When the ice goes in, facilities will still be restricted by mass gathering limits, cross-border protocols, and return to play plans, which have not yet been announced by B.C. Hockey or Hockey Canada.
"I don't think we'll be jumping right into hockey seaons in September or October like we normally would, so if there is a slower start and players and teams can hamper down on skill development that could end up being a good thing," Hiscock said.
Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at email@example.com.