Players in Cochrane's P3 Sports spring hockey program will be among those participating in a new championship series being launched by the United Hockey Alliance of Alberta (UHAA).
Challenges of the pandemic led to the creation of an alliance of four like-minded hockey development organizations in the Calgary area to develop a comprehensive safety protocol.
The idea of the championship series arose when the conversation turned to the spring hockey model, explains Ryan Hilderman, of P3 Sports.
"It could still be development base but we can create a series essentially where you have to play into a championship division so that the games in spring hockey would mean something and ramp up the excitement for kids rather than a tournament here, a tournament there."
In three different tiered age groups, they'll be tournaments in April and May leading up to the (Wally) Kozak Cup in June, he explains. After the two initial tournaments, teams will be placed into divisional finals.
"This just seemed like something we could do that was in line with all of our visions and core values and it made a lot of sense. It's gaining some attention and interest, which is kind of exciting."
He expects they'll be some exciting games between teams from four sports development organizations based in Cochrane, Airdrie, and Calgary.
"We'll see some of Cochrane's best players and some of Calgary's best players out there of the same age, and being able to go head-to-head. Playing games this year is something that they're missing, it's a big void in their season. We're certainly hoping by that time this can help to fill that competitive void that they're unable to get right now."
While the championship series was announced before the latest restrictions were imposed, the organizers are hopeful it will proceed as a series of tournaments or, if necessary, showcases, leading up to the championship.
"We're still anticipating that by spring there will probably be a pent up for hockey again, and hopefully we have the ability and have done enough in the eyes of the decision-makers to open up the arena by then."
He is disappointed the government has not expressed a willingness to have deep conversations on the COVID-19 protocol they created and utilized earlier.
"I think people are at the point where you just throw your arms up in the air and you can't any progress or get any answers that are meaningful or aren't politically charged, so it's tough to plan but we still have to."
Hilderman says, though, he realizes the case numbers are high right now and believes the government is particularly concerned over ICU numbers and the rising number of deaths.