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CAHA, Avs continue rolling out Rink Aid as Colorado health department OKs return to playing games

By Trevor Squire and Wilson Moore, SportsEngine, 01/20/21, 9:00AM MST

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Hub exclusive: Face masks, water bottles and new streaming options are key components of the plan to getting kids back on the ice for competition.

Face masks and water bottles are being distributed to youth hockey players to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The items are a key component of Rink Aid, an initiative supported by the Toyota Hard Hat Heroes program.

Face masks and water bottles are being distributed to youth hockey players to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The items are a key component of Rink Aid, an initiative supported by the Toyota Hard Hat Heroes program.

All photos courtesy of the Colorado Avalanche except where noted.

The Colorado Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA) has worked with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) for several weeks to get the state’s youth hockey players back on the ice amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

State officials approved new guidelines last week that will permit all CAHA-sanctioned activities to resume immediately. As a result, players, parents and fans may have more questions than answers about the remainder of the season. 

CAHA and the Colorado Avalanche recommend parents reach out to coaches and get schedules and start planning accordingly, and all CAHA members are expected to continue complying with health guidelines from local and state health departments to ensure the health and safety of those involved. 

Each rink will have independent protocols that detail the number of participants allowed, screening before entering the building and other procedures to limit COVID-19 exposure and transmission. Those protocols can be found on co.hockey, so bookmark the link to the rink protocols page and check it often for the latest updates, whether it be for a home or an away game. These protocols are subject to change and will be updated frequently. 

One of the most common protocols for the season is the wearing of face masks by players, and CAHA and the Avalanche have partnered with Toyota to supply a face mask — and a water bottle — to each association or club player as part of Rink Aid, an initiative supported by the Toyota Hard Hat Heroes program. A total of 10,000 face masks and the same amount of water bottles were ordered.

The goal is to help athletes and their families feel safe returning to the ice after several weeks off from playing games. The water bottles have a blank jersey printed on them where players can write their names to personalize their water bottles and mitigate the chances of spreading sickness by not drinking only from their personal bottles.

The Avalanche Amateur Hockey Development team have already distributed masks and water bottles to some of the state’s hockey associations. Please contact your local association for more information on how a player can receive a mask and water bottle.

Rink Aid also offers assistance to fans. Two video streaming service options are available for spectators: MVPCast and Meridix. 

CAHA has provided every member organization with an account on the MVPCast (click here to learn more about the MVPCast program) and Meridix platforms. Each service offers different payment options for watching streamed content.

The excitement for a return to competition was evident across the state, including in Littleton, where Littleton Hockey Association Director Brian TenEyck witnessed a buzz that followed players receiving their face masks and bottles last week.

“They were flying out of my office,” TenEyck said of the disbursement of face masks and water bottles. “The managers are very appreciative for the consideration and thought from the Avs, and I already have pictures coming in with kids with their water bottles and masks.”

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The Littleton Hockey Association Bantam B team received water bottles and face masks at practice. Photo courtesy of Brian TenEyck

The Littleton Hockey Association Bantam B team received water bottles and face masks at practice. Photo courtesy of Brian TenEyck

TenEyck recalled when youth sports were shut down nationwide during the postseason last spring.

“After watching how quickly we were shut down last year — and not having that closure to a season with friends — when they got back on the ice, it was amazing to see that excitement,” TenEyck said.

This time, TenEyck has encouraged associations and families to not have consistent expectations, that changes are inevitable and often come short notice, which requires flexibility and patience. 

“It’s absolutely worth it. Watching my own son — who’s a U8  — get back on the ice with his friends was amazing,” TenEyck said. “We want to maintain a safe and positive environment to learn in and use hockey as an escape. They don’t go to school and see their friends — this is their escape, and we’ve done everything we can to honor that commitment to their kids. 

“The goal is to make sure the kids are on the ice. That’s the only thing that matters now,” TenEyck added. “We’re in this together.”

Last season’s event was postponed and CAHA attempted to reschedule it, however, the organization ultimately chose to cancel plans for the tournament when the state’s more strict return to play guidelines remained in place through the summer. 

A smaller sample size of games due to a truncated season could impact CAHA’s traditional ranking system, meaning the organization may need to adjust the formula used to determine which teams qualify for the state tournament. A decision on using new criteria will be made later this season. For now, it’s one possible change Kanai is happy to make.

“It’s nothing like what a normal season would be, but it’s certainly much better than not being able to resume play until [the] middle of February,” Kanai said.

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