Camps for the four teams in the Airdrie Cochrane Athletic Association (ACAA) are gearing up for what is likely to be a very different kind of hockey season.
Tryouts for the Airdrie U15 AAA Xtreme started Sept. 4 , and wrapped up with their annual Tie-Dye game, Sept. 7. Tryouts for the U18 AAA Airdrie Bisons started Sept. 5. Conditioning camp for the U16 AAA AC Avalanche and the newest team in the ACAA, the U16 AA AC Havoc started on Tuesday night.
Bisons Head Coach Dustin Taylor says, because of regulations surrounding the pandemic, the camps have a different look and feel but assessing would be team members is still the primary goal.
The Bisons had just over 90 players participate in the first phase of tryouts. They were broken into groups of between 20 and 25 per ice time.
Phase two of camp saw cohort groups assigned with traditional inter-squad games possibly being played within cohorts. Phase three involves team selection and training with teams finalized by Sept. 27 to begin the formal development process.
At the end of the camp, the Bisons will have a 22 man roster selected which is two more players than they've been allowed to carry in the past.
"Hockey Canada's allowed U18 AAA teams to carry two more players and the reason for that is because of the delayed start of the Western Hockey League," Taylor explains. "So we can actually carry some Western Hockey League eligible players with us until such a time as when they get called to their team."
The league and Hockey Alberta have put together a theoretical plan for starting the season. Players will be selected by Sept. 27 than enter an internal development phase until Oct. 8. After that, the league will create an exhibition series with a sister team. For us, that'll likely be Red Deer."
The Bisons and Red Deer would likely play exhibition games over a two-week period after which the league will review how things have transpired.
Around the end of October, league play will begin using a baseball style with teams in pods with a larger cohort number of between 75 and 100 which allows teams to play in a three or four-team pod then quarantine prior to creating another pod.
Taylor's best guess is that the league is hoping to have each team play between 15 and 20 games before Christmas, which lines up with the number of games in other seasons. Taylor says the plan, in theory, is a good one.
"I'm optimistic, I'm hopeful and I know that, in talking to a lot of the kids, they're quite excited to get back on the ice as well."