Against the backdrop of the current health emergency and worldwide pandemic that affects every facet of life at the moment sport in general is rightly taking a back seat, but with the announcement from both the UK and the Scottish Governments that they are starting to ease the current Coronavirus restrictions, The Building Craftsmen Dumfries Solway Sharks are eagerly waiting to hear when they will be allowed to return to training and eventually playing ice hockey.
They were heartened by the recent release of Return to Play Guidance issued by Ice Hockey UK, Scottish Ice Hockey and the English Ice Hockey Association, who have been working with partners across the sport to provide guidance on how ice hockey may return to play following the easing of restrictions by the UK and developed governments. A full return to rinks plan is being developed, and whilst advice is continuing to change over time, a flexible plan has been developed to help guide teams and players over the coming weeks and months, allowing people to start to put in place the practical steps required for resuming ice hockey.
First and foremost Government advice will be followed to protect the safety of players, teams, officials, volunteers and spectators, making sure that industry and national association guidelines are adhered to.
The Sharks are in a unique situation, as they currently play in the Scottish National League and the English National League N1 division, so they play under the regulations of two different national associations, albeit the guidance emerging is along the same lines.
There will, as in most walks of life, be a phased approach to the return to play, starting when ice rinks are open again. It is likely training will start in small groups at first, with a limited number of players exercising social distancing. There are various stages as guidance from Government evolves and the threat of the virus hopefully continues to recede, ending with a full return to competitive play.
With no set timescale set by the Government there are no tentative dates set yet, it is currently a “wait and see” game, but already the club has plans for next season well underway, aiming to be ready to go as soon as a restart gets the green light.
Stuart Brown of the Sharks Supporters club echoed the report’s support for the frontline and essential workers who have worked so hard to keep us all safe and healthy, and told us, “Our Ice Hockey governing bodies have last week provided some guidance on how we may return to the sport we all love. These flexible plans are very much dependent on the restrictions that are lifted or remain in place in both Scotland and the rest of the UK, but it is a positive step to seeing the return of Ice Hockey. As a club, we continue to work behind the scenes to ensure we are in a position to be ready for the season to start, whenever that may be. We hope that all our supporters, players and volunteers continue to stay safe and we hope to see you all again very soon.”
Sharks Head Coach, Martin Grubb also commented, “It is good news that the governing bodies of our sport are working together with the rinks to have a return to play plan. This has been a very different and difficult off season but we are still planning ahead and talking to both returning and potential new players, however it is tough to tell anyone what the season will look like and when it will start but we are staying positive. As a club we are determined to put an exciting team on the ice and continue to compete for silverware for our fantastic fans and everyone can rest assured we are all pulling together to try and improve the club and team as we always do. The return to play plan doesn’t give any dates but we know that people’s health and safety must come first and fully support whatever the authorities need to do to get us back on the ice but also to ensure all our players, staff, volunteers and supporters safety comes first. I can assure all our supporters we will continue working hard and that whenever we can update you all with any news then we will. In the meantime everyone stay safe and we hope to see everyone back soon.”
Photo credit: Helen Hobbins Photography