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New Winnipeg Recreational Hockey League to replace Iceplex Adult Hockey League and raise the bar for adult rec hockey in Winnipeg

The Manitoba Moose Hockey League. The Winnipeg Jets Hockey League.                    The Iceplex Adult Hockey League.

For adult recreational hockey players, they will recognize these three names as the evolution of the recreational hockey league hosted at Bell MTS Iceplex since the facility opened its doors in 2010. There have been changes over the years beyond just the name of the league, all with the goal of continually improving the adult rec hockey experience at the Iceplex.

The next step of improvement for rec hockey at Bell MTS Iceplex is a much bigger one though.

Enter the Winnipeg Recreational Hockey League.

The Winnipeg Recreational Hockey League (WRHL) is a brand-new league that will replace the current Iceplex Adult Hockey League at Bell MTS Iceplex, starting with the summer 2020 season. The WRHL will introduce Winnipeggers to a new and improved way of doing rec hockey by focusing on the player experience.

So, what’s different about this league?

For starters, the WRHL isn’t owned by the Iceplex, and won’t be run by Iceplex staff. The WRHL will be operated by a group with roots in Edmonton that has a successful history of operating the Capital City Recreational Hockey League there.

Though the group originated in Edmonton, it has roots in Winnipeg too. Rob Barnsley, the Director of the WRHL, is a born-and-bred Winnipegger who has lived in Edmonton for the last 20 years, but has recently moved back to Winnipeg to start the WRHL, which will not only play at the Iceplex but also at the Seven Oaks Arena and The Rink.

“When I moved back to Winnipeg, I wanted to replicate our league in Edmonton and give Winnipeggers the exact same experience of what we do in Edmonton,” said Barnsley, noting that playing in facilities like the Iceplex was the first step in ensuring that Winnipeg rec hockey players got a premier experience.

“We believe we’re a premier product, and we want to be aligned with premier facilities. True North is very well-respected in the hockey community with how they deal with their community. I know that their mantra is community driven.”

David Sattler, General Manager of the Bell MTS Iceplex, believes that having a separate ownership group running the league will be a huge benefit for players as it will allow all parties involved to focus on what they do best.

“This is such a strategic partnership,” said Sattler. “When the Manitoba Moose Hockey League was invented, the purpose of it, like many other adult rec hockey leagues, was to maximize use of our ice. We did that well for 10 years, but now we have an outside group who is able to focus on this and put all of their resources toward the rec league.

“This will also allow the members of our Jets Hockey Development team, who have been working with the IAHL, to focus more on grassroots development. We will be able to further enhance and develop program options for the younger population, as well as further grow our tournament schedule for players at all levels of hockey.”

Dean Court, Business and Amateur Hockey Development & Programming Manager for Jets Hockey Development, was key in organizing the IAHL. He’s thankful for all the teams that have been part of the league over the years and is excited for them to now join the WRHL.

“We’re so grateful for all the teams that have made the IAHL their rec hockey league of choice over the years – from the teams that have been with us from the start, to the teams that have just joined in the last year,” said Court. “We’re excited to present them with a new league, and we hope that all of the amazing teams that have called the Iceplex home will continue to do so with the WRHL.”

 

Barnsley also believes that this partnership will help both the league and the facilities to excel.

“If we can take something and make it better and focus on that product, while letting True North and the Bell MTS Iceplex group do what they do best in running a great facility and running hockey academies and programming, that feels like a win to us.”

The premier adult rec hockey product that Barnsley is striving to create through the WRHL will bring some noticeable changes to the typical recreational hockey format. As a rec league player, you’re probably accustomed to getting three 12-minute periods with no floods between periods. Why? Because, as Sattler noted, rec leagues are designed to fill up ice time during low-traffic hours. One-hour games make it easy to schedule and get as many games in as reasonably possible. The WRHL won’t operate under those restrictions, instead featuring three 15-minute periods and one Zamboni flood after either the first or second period.

Barnsley believes the 15-minute period format is a feature that sets the WRHL apart from other rec hockey leagues.

“Every hockey player I talk to loves the idea of three 15-minute periods. They love it because they get more hockey and they want to have a great time. So, that format has been very well-received, and I think it’s going to take off in Winnipeg.”

The improved the ice quality and extra time for players to interact with each other during the game have contributed to the growth of Barnsley’s Edmonton League.

“If you talk to any hockey player at any level, as good as the on-ice stuff is, a lot of their great memories are made off the ice,” noted Barnsley. “The feedback we get is that teams just love to hang out together, and this intermission gives them more time to do that.”

Playing hockey at the recreational level is, after all, not just about the hockey. It’s about the culture of hockey and hanging out with your friends on your team. It’s about camaraderie and having a good time. The WRHL is fully aware of the importance of the social aspect of the game and fostering it is an important part of their league.

“This league needs to be a step forward, not only in the product that is offered, but in the way people interact with the adult hockey league market itself in our facility, and we believe the WRHL will do that.”

Barnsley echos that confidence and is eager to get the WRHL underway.

“I’m excited for recreational hockey players to join us and say, ‘where have you been all this time?’ If we can do more and offer a good value, why wouldn’t somebody want to try it?”

If you are interested in registering a team for the WRHL summer 2020 season, visit http://mmcinc.formstack.com/forms/rhwsummer2020registration.

If you are interested in refereeing or timekeeping for the WRHL, visit  https://mmcinc.formstack.com/forms/new_ref_signup.

If you have further questions about the league, please reach out to Rob Barnsley at admin@winnipegrechockeyleague.com.

 

This article was originally published in the Game On magazine – Manitoba’s hockey community magazine. 

Iceplex reopening shows commitment to safety, guest experience, and well-being

Bell MTS Iceplex is a place of gathering where the community comes to play, watch, and learn the game of hockey. Naturally, June 1 was a very exciting day as hockey programming was allowed to resume and people made their way back to the facility after nearly three months of the venue being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gathering the hockey community at the Iceplex looks much different now than it did prior to the closure. New health and safety protocols are now becoming standard as activities and access resume in all sorts of venues across the city. At Bell MTS Iceplex, this means each visitor now needs to complete an online health screening survey and sign into the facility, and once inside, capacity is limited and access to some amenities has been affected. These measures are all in place to accommodate the required physical distancing and other safety protocols mandated by the province, along with True North’s commitment to an enhanced cleaning and disinfection regimen.

“We have housekeeping staff around all the time, consistently cleaning the washrooms, cleaning high-touch areas, disinfecting the stands several times during the day, and more,” said David Sattler, General Manager of the Bell MTS Iceplex. “As we begin hockey games, we will be cleaning the benches several times per day. Basically, anything that could be touched is being cleaned multiple times a day.”

The venue’s protocols are continuing to change too as health authorities further evolve their restrictions. Iceplex staff are committed to not only stay in tune with government and health authority mandates, but also to provide the best hockey and training experience and restore convenience when able.

“Originally, players were required to come in their full gear and they were allowed to put on their helmet, gloves and skates in our dressing rooms so that people would stay within our 15-minute limit of using dressing rooms before and after their on-ice sessions ,” said Sattler, noting that the time limit was created so that proper cleaning measures could be taken in the dressing rooms between groups. “With summer approaching and warmer weather outside, that didn’t make for the best experience. We made the decision to let people get fully dressed in our dressing rooms, as long as they are staying in the 15-minute limit before or after their on-ice session. If we extend that time at all, there just isn’t enough time to properly clean the dressing rooms. The safety of our guests is clearly our number one priority, but within those restrictions, we still want to give people who come to our venue the best experience possible.”

Other restrictions have been dialed back as well. Though initially, the Iceplex required all visitors who would be sitting in the stands to wear a facemask while at the facility, parents and fans now have the choice of whether or not to wear a mask, though mask use is still encouraged. Iceplex staff will continue to wear masks throughout the facility when not actively coaching or training.

Sattler notes that these protocols can certainly be reversed just as quickly, but the Iceplex staff are all very grateful for the progress the province has made.

“We really are thankful for the hard work that Winnipeggers and Manitobans have put into flattening the curve of COVID-19,” said Sattler. “It’s because of everybody’s diligence in distancing and the resulting low infection rates that we can open our building and start to offer programming again.”

For Jets Hockey Development (JHD) programming, which is the Iceplex’s hockey training program, drills and on-ice sessions have been adapted to minimize the amount that players are in close proximity. Even the health orders note, though, that physical distancing won’t always be achieved while playing sports.

“The newest revision of the public health order says that facilities must reasonably maintain distance between people in the facility, except participants actively engaged in sport,” said Sattler. “Right now, we aren’t doing any contact drills, but JHD is still doing group drills. We’re asking that players try to maintain physical distancing when they can, but we know that hockey is a close contact sport, so there will be times when players are closer than six feet.”

Andy Kollar, Manager of Goalie Development at the Ice Lab goalie training facility in the Iceplex, noted that they’ve changed the way they do things as well to ensure as much distancing as possible.

“We’ve created a gap between goalie sessions that we don’t usually have, where we are trying to create less traffic for people coming in and leaving. Usually we do three straight sessions, then a flood with the Zamboni. Now we’re doing a session, then a 15-minute gap.

“We’re not using gender specific changerooms either. We just alternate which room is getting used with each session, which gives our housekeeping staff time to clean the room properly.”

Kollar noted that as a goalie coach his on-ice sessions haven’t had to change as much, since they are one-on-one and distancing is easier to maintain.

“As goalies, our sessions are non-contact, so we do have that spacing. But I’ve started to use my stick as a gauge of distance when I’m talking to participants so I don’t get too close.”

Focus Fitness, the 8,500 square foot gym on the second floor of the Iceplex, is operating well below capacity to allow athletes ample space to move within and is also undertaking careful cleaning measures. Users of the space are expected to clean the equipment they use after each use, and after each group session, the gym staff thoroughly clean all the equipment before the next group can use the space.

Greg Husson, an Iceplex customer with two boys in JHD programming who also works out at Focus Fitness and helps out the JHD team when they need a goalie, appreciates the added safety measures along with the effort the Iceplex has put in to making this a smooth transition for everyone.

“With all of the things that the Iceplex has in place now, they’ve made it seamless to come back,” said Husson. “You check in on the website and get everything cleared, and then you get to just walk in, sign in and say hello, and you’re off to whichever rink or amenity you’ve come to use.”

The new restrictions haven’t phased Husson’s boys either, as they are just happy to be back on the ice and playing the sport they love again.

“The smiles on their faces when they got back on the ice was great to see. You can see that they’re happy and motivated, and it’s getting back to a piece of normality in life.”

To Kollar, the fact that parents feel comfortable letting their kids back on the ice and back into their programming, along with the joy that the kids have for being back isn’t possible without a team effort from the Iceplex staff that focuses on patience and attention to details.

“Everything we’ve done to reopen has been well thought-out,” said Kollar. “We really look at the community and it’s safety first. We don’t want to put anyone in jeopardy, and I think our team has done a great job coming up with a protocol plan. We wanted to get the right details in place before opening up.”

These efforts are now providing opportunities that can improve the physical and mental health for all their guests – something that has surely been missed.

“The majority of people that we have in our programs are youth, who have been stuck at home and separated from their schoolmates and teammates for almost three months at an age where we are trying to keep people active and engaged,” said Sattler. “I think it’s important for us to be open to give kids something they enjoy doing and a sense of normalcy. For parents too, being able to see their kids skate might allow them to have that moment of mental calm.”

 

 

Reopening Update and New Guidelines – June 1

CLICK HERE FOR THE BELL MTS ICEPLEX RETURN TO PLAY PROTOCOL: PHASE 2

 

Bell MTS Iceplex Jets Hockey Development, Ice Lab and Focus Fitness are pleased to confirm that we are reopening our facility and resuming programming on June 1, including private one-on-one training, programs and group sessions. Thank you for your patience as we have worked with the province to confirm our ability to reopen.

We look forward to welcoming you back and have been working to ensure we will be ready to meet the needs of our customers in a safe manner consistent with the public health order.

With the health and safety of our guests and staff of paramount importance, a number of new protocols are in place to meet new health and safety guidelines. Effective June 1 there will be some notable changes that will affect programming and facility access. As part of facility-wide physical distancing requirements, certain programs and drills will not be possible at this time. In the first stages of our reopening, parents, guardians, or any other spectators will be limited to one per participant who will be required to wear a mask while in the facility. To minimize the number of people in the facility at a given time, players will be limited to arriving only 15 minutes prior to their ice time and will have only 15 minutes to remove their skates and exit the building following their ice time. Players will be required to be fully dressed when entering the building, except for skates, helmets and gloves. Dressing rooms will be available only to tie skates. Dressing room shower and washroom access will not be available.

We know some of these changes will present a significant adjustment and some potential inconvenience, however, we are doing everything we can to ensure measures are in place that will allow us to welcome you back as soon as possible.

Please be reassured that enhanced cleaning measures have also been implemented including increased disinfection of high-touch surfaces throughout the facility.

We hope you have been staying well and taking advantage of the JHD and Focus Fitness programming that has been made available through our online and social platforms. For these and more resources, please visit the Jets Community Assist Hub at WinnipegJets.com/Community Assist.

On-ice summer program registration will begin at noon on May 28 including Jets Hockey Development programs and camps and Ice Lab sessions up to June 30. For information regarding programs currently available or to book a session please email jhd@tnse.com.

Focus Fitness program registration will begin on May 29. To register please visit our REGISTRATION PAGE and create an account.

Bell MTS Iceplex Team

Programming Update – Facility Reopening Delayed

Bell MTS Iceplex has been informed by the province there was a miscommunication in the directive to allow us to schedule one-on-one ice times with our instructors this week. With the health and safety of our community as a top priority, the reopening of Bell MTS Iceplex remains on hold. We continue to prepare to welcome you back and will share a revised reopening plan soon as we are able.

Bell MTS Iceplex Return To Play Protocol

CLICK HERE FOR THE BELL MTS ICEPLEX – RETURN TO PLAY PROTOCOL

Bell MTS Iceplex is pleased that our community’s collective efforts to stay home have minimized the spread of COVID-19 in our province and we thank you for doing your part. We are optimistic about the province’s phased-in strategy for reopening businesses and services in our community as it will allow us to resume programming starting Tuesday, May 19th at Bell MTS Iceplex.

To book an Ice Lab session please visit our online booking platform and CLICK HERE.
To learn more about the Ice Lab sessions or how to purchase please CLICK HERE for more information.

To book a 1-on-1 JHD session and for information regarding programs currently available please email jhd@tnse.com.

We look forward to welcoming you back and have been working to ensure we will be ready to meet the needs of our customers in a safe manner consistent with the public health order.

With the health and safety of our guests and staff of paramount importance, we are proactively planning for a number of new protocols to meet new health and safety guidelines. When we open, there will be some notable changes that will affect programming and facility access. In the first stages of our reopening, parents, guardians, or any other spectators will be limited to one per participant who will be required to wear a mask while in the facility. Dressing rooms and showers will not be accessible, meaning that players will be required to dress at home, or in designated outdoor stalls. In addition, to minimize the number of people in the facility at a given time, players will be limited to arriving only 15 minutes prior to their ice time and will have only 15 minutes to remove their skates and pads and exit the building following their ice time.

We know some of these changes will present a significant adjustment and some potential inconvenience, however, we are doing everything we can to ensure measures are in place that will allow us to welcome you back as soon as possible.

We hope you have been staying well and taking advantage of the JHD and Focus Fitness programming that has been made available through our online and social platforms. For these and more resources, please visit the Jets Community Assist Hub at WinnipegJets.com/Community Assist.

Bell MTS Iceplex Team.