For the first time in Grunthal’s recent history, Grunthal Minor hockey will not be running a program this year.
This is due to a considerable decrease in hockey registrations. Grunthal Minor Hockey Association Board vice president Rick Neufeld says player registration is currently at 30% of what it was last year.
Neufeld says they tried to garner more registrations for the year. ‘We put out a bunch of pleas, we saw the registration was really low and we told the community. ‘We can't have hockey; we need to have an uptake in registration.’
‘A 70% drop-off that would take us from 10 teams to possibly even less than three teams that could even be formed.’ says Neufeld.
The Grunthal Minor Hockey Board is attributing this steep decline in registrations to the current public health order requirements for all spectators, officials, and coaches 18 and over needing to produce proof of vaccination to enter arenas.
Neufeld adds, ‘I think the reality is that there's a lot of parents out there who've been uncomfortable or maybe haven't got vaccinated. And because of that, if they can't come into the arena to be with their kids, there's no supervision for their kids. I think that's just made people uncomfortable and they haven't signed their kids up.’
Neufeld says the boards' hands are tied in this decision, ‘there's nothing else that we can do. If we have less than even the potential of having three teams, you can't run a hockey season that way.’
‘It was heartbreaking to sit in this meeting and saying, look, we've got nobody signed up.’ Neufeld says Grunthal has had a team in the community since at least 1949.
‘We have been just absolutely heartbroken. I’ve got kids in hockey. My daughter is not playing this year, and my son will go wherever minor hockey sends him.’
Neufeld is quick to remind parents that according to Manitoba Minor Hockey, every child that registers to play hockey will have a place to play. ‘Some of us are just gonna have to play in other communities for this year.’
Playing in other communities isn’t out of the ordinary for some hockey players according to Neufeld, as he thinks of kids from as far away as Vita that have played in Grunthal in the past. ‘Many kids have been doing this for many years. and so, we're super disappointed and heartbroken that it's happening to us this year, but most many of our kids in these rural communities are traveling at least that far anyways, to go to hockey.’
As a parent and a hockey board member, Neufeld is disappointed in not having hockey in Grunthal this season. ‘It's really disappointing that we couldn't get more than 30% registered, and there are some parents out there who are quite upset and they feel like maybe minor hockey could have done something about it. But for the most part, there's a lot of understanding because you can't run a hockey program without volunteers and without the kids signed up.’
In spite of the Grunthal Redwings not hitting the ice this year, Neufeld is hopeful this year will still be good. ‘As heartbroken as we are. we're holding on to hope that our kids can still have a great season. And that next year we can start rebuilding our hockey program.’