WATERLOO – With the National Hockey League set to resume later this week inside two bubbles, the Waterloo Black Hawks have also prepared their own bubble for return to play.
On Thursday, the Black Hawks will host the first of a series of four ‘Futures Camps’ over 15 days at Young Arena when players with 2006 and 2007 birth dates arrive in the Cedar Valley.
Waterloo native Cal Petersen had won his last four starts for the Kings before the NHL season was paused on March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Black Hawks’ head coach P.K. O’Handley said he and his staff have spent many long days in conjunction with Young Arena staff preparing to conduct the camps safely. Additionally, O’Handley said the camps by design are running at 50 percent capacity compared to previous years.
“I’m talking hours a day walking through this to minimize anything that could go wrong,” O’Handley said. “We have several entrances to this building we can utilize. We have a collaboration with the Allen Nurses College as well as a plan for additional social distancing.”
Among the camp rules for the Future camps is players will arrive dressed with exception of their skates and will be masked while entering one entrance. The participants will also be spaced out in hallways as the Black Hawks will minimize usage of arena locker rooms. Players will put on their skates in their designated hallway spot and then will be directed straight to the ice sheet.
At the completion of each segment, participants will exit the ice, remove their skates and leave the building through a different entrance while the next segment enters another.
In addition, the Waterloo Black Hawks have already formed their own, detailed plan on how the organization will hand the United States Hockey League's return-to-play plan.
“We have made them smaller,” O’Handley said. “With our camps, we’ve always prided ourselves on the interaction between players, parents and coaches in the dining area and those things. The unfortunate part is that will look a lot different.
“But all signs are the kids and their families want to come to Waterloo, Iowa. They want to see Young Arena. They want to be part of the Black Hawks for four or five days.”
Social distancing measures will also be in place for camp parents.
“We will allow a parent or two in the building for the kid camps. The parents that come will have their temperature screened and then will be directed to an assigned seat like season ticket holders where they have to remain for the entire game,” O’Handley said. “We will be vigilant about that. Our staff really understands we are going to be vigilant with every protocol.
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“This is a big building and people like to stand and roam around because there are some neat things to see, but unfortunately that will not be the case this time.
“Also, Chris Dolan and his Young Arena staff have been nothing short of outstanding with how we are going to sanitize after each use. We have gone to great lengths to try to make this an enjoyable, safe experience for all participants.”
It is also anticipated that members of 2020-21 Waterloo Black Hawks will begin arriving in the Cedar Valley in early August for a mini-camp in preparation for the regular season.