Minor hockey returning to floor ball while awaiting completion of arena

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo
Pennie Pokiak, the president of Hay River Minor Hockey, stands next to a floor hockey net in the gym of Harry Camsell School.

Hay River Minor Hockey will again turn to floor ball and hopefully some outdoor rinks as it awaits the opening of a new arena in the under-construction recreation centre.

Pennie Pokiak, the president of Hay River Minor Hockey, said it is renting space for floor ball – also known as floor hockey – in the gym of Harry Camsell School.

It will return to the same schedule of floor hockey as it did last fall and winter.

“We’ll run it for three months – October, November, December,” said Pokiak. “Because we don’t know when the arena is going to be up and running. I think it would be safe to assume that it won’t be until the New Year.”

She noted construction of the rec centre is scheduled to be finished around Dec. 18.

“Well, that’s Christmastime and everybody is gone on vacation,” she said. “So it wouldn’t make sense for us to plan anything before Jan. 1 as far as I’m concerned. Most people, not all people, but most people go away for those two weeks.”

Last fall and winter, about 140 boys and girls – ranging in age from four to 18 years – participated in floor ball.

Pokiak said the floor ball will allow the players to get exercise and practise some skills.

“You’re not working on your skating skills, but you’re still working on your stick handling, your puck handling, and absolutely you’re exercising,” she said.

Pokiak said, after the floor ball, Minor Hockey will offer a half-season of indoor ice hockey.

“And who knows? Maybe the town will decide to keep the ice in for longer than the end of March,” she noted. “That’s always an option, too. I mean it’s totally up to them, but I would think that they might be willing to give back and maybe keep that ice in for longer just because we’ve gone without for so long. That hasn’t been something that we’ve had conversations about, but I think the town knows how it’s affected people, and I think that they would be very willing to work with organizations if they wanted to extend their season past the three months.”

Pokiak also noted that minor hockey will also lose some ice time to the week-long Arctic Winter Games in March.

Normally, Hay River Minor Hockey begins its season on the first weekend of October with 140 to 160 players and runs to the end of March.

Judy Goucher, senior administrative officer with the Town of Hay River, said an extended season is under consideration.

“I think that’s something that the recreation committee is considering and will be making a recommendation to the town,” she said. “Of course, there’s going to be dollars attached to that, but they are in the process of considering it and we’ll wait to hear from them what their thoughts are and go from there.”

As for the outdoor rinks operated by the Town of Hay River, Pokiak noted they weren’t ready last year until the middle of December.

“So is there an opportunity for those to go in earlier? There is, but it’s all dependent on the weather,” she said. “That’s not something you can plan for. However, I do know that last year those outdoor rinks really were utilized well.”

Goucher said there is no formal plan yet drawn up for outdoor rinks.

“I’ve got the rec staff looking into it, considering our arena won’t be available probably for ice sports until the New Year,” she said. “They’re going to look into it. Obviously, the ability to make and retain the ice is going to be a key decision point. It’s got to be cold enough for the ice to stay. We may not be able to accommodate all the rinks that we had historically, but they’re definitely looking at it.”

Goucher added the recreation committee will be meeting next month and it would also typically consider outdoor rinks and make recommendations to the town.

The SAO did say the town would likely concentrate on the outdoor rinks in 553 and Old Town.

As for the anticipated completion of the new rec centre, Goucher said, “We’re still on target for the third week in December for the facility to be handed over to the town.”

She said that, as soon as the ice is ready afterwards, it will be made available to the public.

“We know everybody is quite anxious to get into the new facility and we’re anxious to open the doors and have it available for them,” she said.

Goucher noted scheduled programming at the arena probably won’t begin until early in the New Year.