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Leafs begin journey into unchartered COVID-19 waters

The Nelson Daily Sports
By The Nelson Daily Sports
November 2nd, 2020

And now the journey into unchartered waters begins for the Nelson Leafs and the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.

While some KI teams have already began playing exhibition games during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Leafs have been working off the rust garnered from more than eight months away from the rink with, first, training camp in mid-October, and then, daily practice at the NDCC Arena.

Nelson begins play in its cohort division Friday in the Sunflower City with the first of a home-and-home exhibition series against the Castlegar Rebels.

Saturday the two teams return to the NDCC Arena for the second of the two-game affair beginning at 7 p.m. on HockeyTV.

“I’ve done more logistical work in the past few weeks than I’ve ever done before,” said Leafs assistant coach Adam DiBella when asked about the preparations for the startup during COVID-19.

“This season has been challenging for sure and staff and we’re working through preparing thanks to the great staff we have here.

“Now that we’re through the beginning plans, we’re ready to begin the season.”

Like all junior clubs in Canada, the Leafs have been busy developing an in-depth plan to ensure safety of the team within BC Government, Interior Health, Hockey Canada, BC Hockey and WorkSafe BC guidelines.

Some of the steps taken by the Leafs include weekly conference calls with the Regional District of Central Kootenay, BC Hockey and KIJHL, keeping up to date contact sheets and Cohort sheets, including staff, and working with everyone associated with the team to keep Cohorts groups small.

“The players must complete a daily list of COVID-19 questions,” DiBella explained.

“Any time anyone displays any symptoms they must first report to me or (Head coach) Mario (DiBella).”

DiBella said the Leafs currently have 24 players in camp with another player expected to arrive soon.

Included in the mix is rookie standout Joe Davidson, who was thought to be headed to Merritt Centennials of the BC Hockey League.

“Joe is back, and we’re thrilled to have him on our roster,” DiBella said.

“He improved 10-fold compared to the start of last year and I expect that Joe will continue to improve this season with the Leafs.”

Davidson is joined by other local players, rookie forwards Seamus Boyd and Rhettt Hamilton, and returning defenceman Reid Vulcano and goalie Tenizn Mint.

Like many, DiBella is disappointment at this time fans cannot attend games in person.

However, he’s excited with the KIJHL move to HockeyTV and the improved quality fans will notice during the broadcasts.

LEAFS NOTES: Nelson, which begins the regular season in Castlegar Friday, November 13th, is in the Cohort group with the Rebels, Grand Forks Border Bruins and Osoyoos Coyotes. The teams begin Phase 1, running for a total of six weeks, concluding Saturday, December 19th. All teams will play a total of 12 games during Phase 1. The KIJHL said, Phase 2 begins following a 14-day Christmas break on Saturday, January 2nd with teams shifting into different in cohorts. . . .The KIJHL said Friday the league is dealing with its first positive COVID-19 test. A player with the Kimberley Dynamiters tested positive, forcing cancellation of two exhibition games with Fernie Ghostriders and Creston Valley Thunder Cats.

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