While there was great disappointment that the youth season was cancelled, a modified adult season did proceed, and it provided the league with an idea of how future games may be played in the era of Covid.
The season started in late August and was supposed to finish near the end of October but was cut short three weeks early when the city re-instituted a modified lockdown due to a spike in Covid cases.
Despite the shortened season, it was a success. Like our professional brethren in the NBA, NHL and WNBA, the Withrow league had to deal in bubbles. In our case, the bubble could not be larger than 50 people. That meant a bubble could have four teams. Teams in one bubble could not play teams in another bubble.
The women only had four teams, so that was the bubble. The men, with six teams, had to break the division into two bubbles of three teams.
At the rink, 10 people were allowed on the bench at any one time, which meant teams could not have a coach. And if every person on a team showed up, that meant there were too many people on the bench and players would occasionally have to take a seat in the penalty box, or even stand outside the rink. Shifts were timed for three minutes to allow for an orderly change of players.
The rules of the game were different. There were no face-offs. Players were not allowed to remain in the goalie crease at all. Players were expected to give each other a modicum of space when battling for the ball in the corners. When a goal was scored, the scored-upon team would get possession. And when penalties were called, a player didn’t sit off for two minutes, the fouled player got to take a penalty shot.
Staffing was different. There was just one ref, and a time keeper who also doubled as a cleaning/sanitation person.
So how did this system work? Very well. The game moved quickly, was competitive. Players sometimes had a bit more time and space to make the most excellent pass and battle for the ball. But that did not mean games weren’t competitive. You still have to run for your life, and get your stick in there to get the ball.
It’s not clear how much of the modified adult game could be used in the youth league, particularly the really little kids. But it does provide a template from which to work.