As hockey players approach the front doors at Monument Ice Rinks, they are reminded that safety comes first and foremost these days.
Posted signs instruct players to practice social distancing, wash hands often and to use their own labeled water bottle. Players are also given temperature checks before entering the building and asked a few questions about if they’ve been in contact with anyone with COVID-19 or they have had any symptoms themselves.
“They’re very, very appreciative — more so than normal,” Monument Ice Rinks General Manager Al Pedersen said. “They don’t realize how much they miss the game and the routine and the camaraderie. After six weeks of that, they were ready to get a little more competitive and play against other teams. Everyone’s been very respectful and understanding. We’ve gone above and beyond to make sure we’re doing the right things and following the guidelines. Our members have bought in and everyone seems to be doing the right thing on a daily basis.”
Monument Ice Rinks in Monument, Colorado, is running a tight ship, but it’s for good reason. Using guidelines set forth by the state of Colorado, the arena is allowing adult and youth hockey players, as well as figure skaters to get back on the ice.
“It’s not a free-for-all by any means,” said Pedersen. “It’s not a big gathering place.”
Monument Ice Rinks shut its doors on March 16 and by May 1 started slowly reopening with small groups being able to skate. The first adult hockey games were back underway on June 14.
It’s been a positive vibe throughout the hockey community at the Rinks. Players are happy to be able to return to the ice, all the while complying with state-mandated guidelines implemented by Pedersen and the arena staff.
Pedersen noted the players have been really energetic in their return to the game they love.
“It’s a great outlet for people,” Pedersen said. “They’re staying close to home.”
Pedersen said there are a small percentage of adult players who haven’t come back yet because they don’t feel they are quite ready.
“Basically, what it comes down to is your comfort level,” Pedersen said. “If you’re not comfortable, don’t show up. This can be a scary situation.”
For adult league games — Monument started fresh with its summer session — 25 people are allowed on the ice at once. Pedersen said usually teams have about a dozen skaters and goalies who show up for games along with the officials.
Pedersen asks players to arrive just 15 minutes before their game and they need to try to be out of the arena about 10-15 minutes after their contest ends.
“So, basically when the Zamboni gets off the ice, people are arriving and the other people are in their room and they’re leaving,” Pedersen said. “There’s not too much crossing paths going on.”
There aren’t any strict on-ice guidelines such as wearing a mask, but Pedersen advises players to be smart and use common sense on and off the ice.
One of the biggest changes at the rink during the COVID-19 pandemic is no spectators are allowed inside. That’s especially tough on parents who can’t sit and watch their child on the ice. Pedersen always suggests to parents to take that hour when their kid is at practice and go for a walk or bike near the arena.
There aren’t any youth games being played yet — and that’s by design — just a lot of small group skills sessions, Pedersen noted.
“When the guidelines were 10 or less for a while, it was really neat to get to know the kids and you could really hone in on their strengths and weaknesses and talk to them more individually,” Pedersen said.
Pedersen has been in contact with fellow rink general managers from all over Colorado to get ideas on what they have been doing to get players on the ice and stay safe at the same time.
“Week to week we talk and see what each other is doing,” Pedersen said. “Basically, everyone’s kind of on the same page and doing the same things.”
Pedersen and the Monument Ice Rinks staff are taking their approach day-by-day to keep the hockey players and community members safe, all the while adhering to the state guidelines.
“They are constantly updating those, so you have to kind of stay on top of it,” Pedersen said. “We’re watching that carefully.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.