Kids’ day out in upcoming Canada Hockeyfest


Canada HockeyFest

It was on March 12th 2020 that Irish Rovers played their swaying numbers in front of 800 people at the Centennial Hall in London, Ontario, Canada. The very next day, the entire world spun into pandemic lockdown with COVID-19 wreaking havoc the world over.

The Irish Rovers is a group of Irish musicians which originated in Toronto, Canada. London is a Canadian City in southwestern Ontario, just north of Lake Erie and the US border.

Quipped Brad Jones, President of hall operator Jones Entertainment Group (JEG), “It brought new meaning when they sung ‘Wasn’t That a Party’. Nobody knew there wouldn’t be another one for a year.”

Amid the pandemic, the London-based agency has jumped back into the live entertainment space with a revamped Tim Hortons Hockeyfest three-on-three road hockey festival scheduled for September 11th-13th at Westmount Shopping Centre in Edmonton, Canada.

It could be the first sporting event in the City since the deadly pandemic broke out, and biggest hockey-related gathering this side of the Stanley Cup playoff bubbles.

Jones added, “We did a survey of 2,000 players and parents and 97 per cent of them said, ‘Please play’. The kids are dying to play in an organized tournament. When we got that feedback and (the province) moved into Phase 3, we looked at how we could make this happen.”

The City’s first Hockeyfest was held with 15 pop-up rinks a year ago in the spring at Western Fair. The big barrier in returning, though, is the fairgrounds are limited to a single address.

Informed Jones, “At Westmount, they have 30 acres and five physical addresses. Hence, we’re able to do five separate pods (of three rinks each) and keep it well under the 100-person limit per area. Unfortunately, we’re capped at 150 teams (seven players per team) and there is no crossover. We have a registration desk, security and referees strictly for each pod.”

“We’ve been working really close(ly) with the (Chief Medical Officer) Chris Mackie and the Middlesex-London health unit and (Mayor) Ed Holder. We were given the green light and we’re excited to launch it,” he exulted.

This is the only Hockeyfest planned for this year. Events with National Hockey League (NHL) partners in Chicago, and Minnesota (in US) and Ottawa in Canada will be moved to 2021 and the organizers also have tentative deals with seven other big-league franchises.

The arrangement includes a patented HockeyFast rink board system that is half a standard NHL ice surface: 12.9 meters by 30.5 meters. The staff will perform a chemical wipedown after every game and every player — adult or child — will undergo a temperature reading prior to each contest.

“There are serious protocols, but we’re very comfortable to be doing it. We’re thrilled after one year, we’ve proved to thousands of people this isn’t just a regular street hockey tournament with hay bales and old rusted fences. We’ll have music playing, but we can’t have a central location this time with game cages, radar guns and accuracy shot (platforms) that bring 500 people in one place. This is mainly an event to get kids out and make it as fun as we can within the guidelines. It’s a win-win for everybody,” Jones enthused.

“We are based out of London, Ontario and we are working close with our Ontario Health Unit to show that we can operate in this COVID world,” Jones put in.

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