Welcome back Northwest Warriors!

With evaluations almost all wrapped up, we have all had a chance to experience the new reality of going to the rink during the COVID pandemic.  Dressing at home, wearing masks, and health checks are starting to feel more normal.

As we roll into the Development Phase of our season, this message is intended to give our members some insight into the ways that this will differ from a regular season.

Team formation – Since the objective of this phase is to focus on development, not competition, the driving factor behind our team formation process was to create fun parity teams within each cohort.  After cohorts were formed from the evaluation/sorting skates, head coaches were selected from the list of applicants, and they were invited to take part in a player draft.  All coaches from within each cohort participated, allowing each coach to not only align appropriate skill levels, but to align friends and neighbours, all while holding one another accountable for maintaining parity.  This process was overseen by the Executive, Evaluation Directors and Coach Directors, and formed teams were back-checked to verify parity according to evaluation data.

That being said, we expect that you will find the mini team structure within the cohorts to be quite fluid.  While practices and games will be scheduled based on the assigned mini-team to enable contact tracing, we believe that the cohorts will actually feel like one big team by the end of the Development Phase.  The coaches will lean on each other, and there will be lots of unique game formats as we adapt to changing player availability in the wake of the pandemic.  We are grateful to be able to deliver a hockey program this season, and commit to providing a safe environment focused on fun and development.

Facilities – We want to extend a huge thank you for the high level of understanding and respect for the facility rules that everyone has shown during evaluations.  Each of the rinks that the NWW have the privilege to frequent for our program are community owned and operated.  Which means that they work under much tighter margins, and without the public service backing that city-run facilities enjoy.  We recognize that the restrictions on spectators seem unfair when compared with what is happening at other facilities around the city.  The NWW Executive and Administration are committed to continuing to work with these facilities to come up with ways to increase access for spectators, and anticipate announcing some changes as early as next week.  Stay tuned for a facility specific post!

What’s Next? – The Development Phase is only expected to last until the Christmas break.  Depending on the status of AHS restrictions, we will either move to the Competition Phase or to a Regular Season.  With ongoing consultation among cohort coaches during the Development Phase, we will continue to evaluate the players for the formation of either Competition Phase mini-teams, or Regular season teams.

If we are still operating under the current AHS Phase 2 restrictions by the Christmas break, we will move to the Competition Phase.  Competition Phase mini-teams will be further tiered in order to align with similarly tiered mini-teams from our sister Northern associations to form new cohorts.  This re-alignment will take place after a 14-day non-participation window at Christmas time, which will also create an opportunity to move kids who may have been poorly placed as a result of evaluations with no game situations.  We all know that there are some kids who perform well in drills, and others who thrive more in a game situation.  Health regulations prevented game play in determining cohort formation, so if we got it wrong, we will work to right those errors in the next phase.

Development Camp – we are very proud of the high-quality skating coaching that is available from this program and we are committed to ensuring it remains part of the NWW program.  But we need to do so in the safest way possible.  Therefore, our plan is to make these sessions available to be purchased (at cost) by mini-teams or cohort groups.  Coaches will coordinate within cohorts and request sessions based on the interest of the members of their cohort.  The NWW will strive to ensure that each cohort has an equal opportunity to take advantage of this additional skating coaching.

Final thoughts – We are grateful for the many hours put in by our team of Evaluations volunteers.  We could not get the season off the ground without the On-ice helpers, the Age Group Coordinators, the Evaluation, Coach and Goalie Coordinators.  It makes for a crazy couple of weeks, so if you see any of these volunteers in your travels – take a moment to say thank you!  We are also happy to report that we have come through the process without a confirmed COVID case amongst our numbers.  Great work adhering to the guidelines thus far, but we must stay diligent!  Please remember to continue to complete the Health Check questionnaire accurately, and adhere to Alberta Health Services guidelines.  If you are sick, please don’t come to the rink if you are sick.

Thank you again, and we look forward to a fun and unique season!

Janis Rogers & Bernie DeGroot, NW Warrior Co-Chairs

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