No Exception to Covid 19 Challenges Staying Active & Adapting
By Randy Uens – Total Sports Media
As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected hockey worldwide since 2020. Players and teams have been forced to deal with unprecedented situations, and to navigate new rules regarding modified play almost daily. All players have been forced to take on the pandemic, as it’s own challenge and set themselves new goals to remain active in the game in creative, new and innovative ways. Locally, the Lady Dukes are no exception and have stayed active throughout the pandemic accepting each new challenge while adapting to ensure that they can remain ready for the game, in any capacity, at all times. While traditional play may have come to a drastic halt in the spring of 2020, the Lady Dukes stayed committed to the game and remained focused on their team and individual goals.
With many players actively planning their futures, the players had to come up with creative approaches to stay in contact with potential schools regarding scholarship opportunities and ensure that those prospects were not also halted due to the pandemic. While cancelled tournaments and the restrictions on cross-border travel have definitely had a negative impact on athletes attempting to be scouted, our athletes have remained positive and have relied on technology to continue to source out any opportunities they can to ensure that when restrictions are lifted they can take full advantage of the amazing prospects women’s hockey can provide to our young athletes.
While virtual calls and online tours will never replace face to face meetings and tours at potential schools, the girls who hope to continue playing hockey at a collegiate level have learned to adapt with the changing times. The media studies program at Loyalist College allowed select students to interview our players and tape some games and practices and is working to provide the team with edited footage they can use to send to potential coaches and schools.
In September of 2020 when most local boys’ team were grounded from any games, the coaching staff worked diligently with the OWHA and they’re local Health Departments to play modified games. The ingenuity and creativity displayed by the coaching staff allowed the girls to play modified games against other teams until December, when the province went into full lockdown. While not considered league play, these modified games gave the players a chance to play the game they love, while getting some current game footage to use to send to scouts, should they wish. The team was even able to host two full day development camps, where they hosted Clarington and the younger U15 Belleville Bearcats for game play and off-ice training sessions.
Even during lockdown, the players continued to communicate via social media to keep each other motivated and accountable to continue to train, however they could. Outdoor rinks and indoor gyms became the new norm and the players challenged each other to stay active. We are so proud of how our players have excelled while learning game strategies for 3 on 3 play, 4 on 4 play and now modified 5 on 5 play. Since September, the Lady Dukes have played 21 games, with a record of 13 wins, 6 losses and 4 ties. With the lockdown lifted in February, the Lady Dukes are currently playing an 8 game exhibition series with their rival, the Kingston Ice Wolves. Current games consist of 5 on 5 play, with continued play and no face-offs. While the Lady Dukes miss their fans, they are setting an example for the rest of the hockey community by continuing to play as if they were playing for a packed arena and working hard to push themselves to improve in all aspects of the sport. The team is hopeful that an extended season could allow them to play other teams and maybe even welcome some fans to the stands.