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Patience pays off for Prince George’s Cariboo Hockey clubs with Kin Arena reopenings

Cougars, Capitals, Bobcats to focus on skills training until safe to play games

“Everyone is willing to be open-minded.”

That’s from Trevor Sprague, General Manager of Cariboo Hockey, this morning (July 28) after the City of Prince George made the decision to reopen all three sheets in the Kin Arenas on Aug. 17 after weeks of indefinite closures.

On Monday (July 17), councillors voted unanimously to open the recreational facility, which will now allow user groups to booke ice times for development and training camps as B.C. remains in Phase Three of the COVID-19 restart plan.

The decision comes as a relief for Sprague and his six minor-league teams, citing patience is important and needs to be considered even during an unpredictable time.

“Some aren’t strong enough to say, ‘Hold on, let’s wait.’ But, for the most time with our organization, that’s not the case,” he said after two weeks of hoping the city would ‘do the right thing.’

“Sometimes you just need to appreciate what you have close to home with your kids playing at home and that’s what we offer here.”

Cariboo Cougars Head Coach Tyler Brough echoed the same breath of fresh air for his club showing his appreciation for city councillors taking the players into consideration.

“We believe this decision is beneficial to the well-being of our young athletes in not only Prince George, but all of northern B.C.,” he said to PrinceGeorgeMatters. “We look forward to getting back at it while focusing on everyone’s health and safety.”

The Cougars, Capitals and Bobcats must now wait to hear from BC Hockey, who, according to Sprague, is set to release a ‘return-to-play’ plan sometime this week.

Regardless of what happens, the focus will be mainly on skill development with game-play not listed in B.C.’s restart plan, or otherwise approved by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

“This whole report assumes we are under Phase Three,” said City Director of Public Safety Adam Davey during last night’s council meeting. “So, to be very clear, there’s no hockey being played in Phase Three as we understand it. It’s practicing and skills and drills, so if the BCHL and WHL [or any of the BC minor hockey leagues] were able to come back, we are no longer in Phase 3 as we know it."

Cariboo Hockey’s open-mindedness, as Sprague says, will hopefully lead to more serious skills development for each athlete on his six clubs, which takes in about 20 players per roster.

He and his coaches will have to wait and see how they’ll be able to select athletes to come to camps, how those will look like and how many can be taken in at a given time.

Regardless, Sprague believes with more personal time coaches will be able to have with incoming players, all rosters could produce homegrown leaders on and off the ice.

“This is the safest place to play hockey,” he said.

“I think, common sense-wise, for parents, this is the best option for their kids. I think we offer a great program with the training and coaches we have. There’s a lot of pressure from a lot of different academies to try and motivate players to leave the north, but we do a really good job up here and I’m just appreciative of the fact that everyone has been patient.”

While the Kin Arenas will reopen next month, the city decided to close the CN Centre, Rolling Mix Concrete Arena and Elksentre for the rest of 2020 to help reduce the projected budget shortfall as a result of COVID-19.