Hockey will no doubt look different this year

Hockey will no doubt look different this year than it did in January, 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic affected schools and extracurricular activities.

When South Burlington students returned to school on Monday, they didn’t just get to get back in the classroom — they got to hit the ice, snow and courts as well.

Gov. Phil Scott announced Dec. 22 that high schools teams could begin non-contact practices, giving local schools the chance to get ready for a slow start to the winter season.

The order, which allowed teams to begin skills, strength and conditioning practices, allowed such activities to begin on Tuesday, Dec. 26.

“I think everyone was kind of surprised that we received that announcement on our holiday break,” said Mike Jabour, South Burlington’s student activities director. “We prepped prior to the announcement, meeting with our coaches and having expectations, being ready and prepared for everything.”

With the surprise announcement, Jabour decided to delay the official start of the season for the Wolves until Monday, when schools returned from the winter break. That gave coaches and athletes the time needed to prepare for a non-contact start.

“Our coaches have been designing practice plans over the past week,” Jabour said. “It’s non-contact, socially-distanced drills that they will be running. It’s one person every 200 feet and our gym is about 6,000 square feet. So that gives us 25 people out that are allowed in the gym.”

Coaches and players will have to wear masks and complete daily health screenings to participate in practice.

While outdoor sports like Nordic and alpine skiing will be set to go from the start, ice hockey and basketball will have to adjust their early season practices to fit into the new guidelines — something Jabour said the coaches are prepared to do.

“You’ve just gotta get creative to make sure that the drills that you do either you’re working on shooting, dribbling, passing drills for hockey, skating drills,” Jabour said. “I think there is surprisingly a lot that you can do with the no-contact, socially-distanced.”

Jabour did specify that there would be no tryouts during the no-contact practices but they would count towards the required 10 practices, so that teams could jump into games quickly if they get the all clear.

“We have scheduled games starting on Jan. 11,” Jabour said. “We’re going to keep that date. Being ready to play games by the 11th is probably a long shot. But we have games scheduled that week and if it gets pushed back, they will just either push back those games or cancel those games.”

Jabour said the games remain on the schedule so that the sports activities team can be ready to go as soon as they get the official go-ahead to start — something that helped in the fall when the schools received that they could start games on a Tuesday and had everyone out on the fields later that week.

When games do resume, spectators will not be allowed at any of the events and Jabour said the school is all set to film every game — varsity and junior varsity — so that parents and families can watch from home.

“We are fully equipped and ready to broadcast games,” Jabour said. “We’re ready to rock and roll the moment that we get to go ahead.”

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