The return to hockey activity is being carefully trialled and monitored across the globe as the tight grip of COVID-19 on sporting activities is gradually relaxing. In the latest of our Play Hockey Stay Healthy feature stories, Ken Maplesden, the Community Hockey and Events General Manager of Hockey New Zealand, tells us about recent developments.
Hi Ken, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. The COVID-19 global health pandemic has had a huge impact on all aspects of life, with the inability to play sports such as hockey being just one of many things affected in this crisis. However, in some countries, like New Zealand, Hockey is slowly returning! Please tell us what stage you are at regarding the return to action, and how things are coming together.
Ken Maplesden: “The timing of COVID-19 has had a significant impact on hockey as it struck right at the start of our winter season and has therefore delayed its start. However, we are super excited and, given the strong response to COVID-19 in New Zealand, our country is starting to open up. For hockey this means people have been able to get back out on the turf over the last couple of weeks with many competitions starting over the next two weekends. Our return to hockey has gone well so far, however, it has been a significant amount of work for our associations to adapt their delivery of the sport to meet the raft of measures needed to combat COVID-19.”
After a long period of lockdown, there must be a real sense of excitement about the return to action. What has been the reaction from the hockey community in New Zealand?
Ken Maplesden: “Yes everyone is very excited about being able to get back out on the turf. The reaction from our community has been really positive with everyone being very understanding of balancing the need for a cautious approach to returning with wanting to get back to the sport we love and, most importantly, seeing our friends!”
Are there any special measures in place with the return regarding social distancing? What is currently allowed in terms of training and interaction, at both the performance and community level?
Ken Maplesden: “At this stage there are three key considerations for us in getting back to hockey. Our facilities must have good contact tracing practices in place. We must ensure we have excellent hygiene and cleaning practices in place to keep our people safe and lastly, we can only have groups of 100 people therefore limiting spectators etc. In addition to this, there are a raft of considerations for our facilities with cafés and bars. Excitingly there is the potential for some of these restrictions to ease further in the next week or so, which will be great for hockey.”
Everyone recognises the devastating impact that the coronavirus has had on the world. However, sport often proves to be a powerful and positive force during difficult times. How important is the return of our sport to the hockey family in New Zealand?
Ken Maplesden: “The return of sport is very important to us and the COVID-19 crisis has really emphasised the importance of community sport and being able to be with your friends and family while being involved in our great game. We are excited that hockey is starting to happen again across the country and look forward to connecting with our people face to face again.”
The return of hockey in New Zealand is taking a three-phase approach: ‘get ready to train’, ‘prepare to play’, and ‘return to play’. To read more about this strategy, .
To read about some of the rule changes being introduced by Hockey New Zealand to optimise participant and community safety ahead of the re-start, .