After Tucson festival, IHAZZ now in a holding pattern
Creative planning and scheduling, along with putting a wide range of precautionary measures in place, helped IHAAZ navigate its way through a challenging time to put on its festival in Tucson last month.
With the COVID-19 pandemic only beginning to take shape at the time, but nowhere near at the level it is today, the league held a meeting the week leading up to the festival to figure out how it would approach things.
Tournament director Nick Boyarsky said the board met the day before the tourney began via a teleconference.
“We had a meeting Thursday and spent a good 45 minutes talking about it,” said Boyarsky. “What we came up with was we were going to do as many as things as possible to eliminate the things we were told to watch out for.”
Although pro sports leagues were beginning to postpone seasons and the NCAA called off March Madness and the Frozen Four, there were no indications from the city or state at the time that holding the festival would be a problem.
So IHAAZ moved forward.
Schedules were redone, minimizing the number of teams that were together in the rink at one time. Divisions with a larger number of teams saw players separate into groups when they weren’t playing in an effort to promote safety.
“The teams brought their own canopies and we basically had little islands of teams,” Boyarsky said. “We wanted to have the least amount of interaction between the teams as possible.”
In addition to those measures, Boyarsky said Prescott board member Charlie Arnold and his wife brought sanitation supplies that they use at their rink so that the locker room could be disinfected every two hours.
The benches and penalty boxes were cleaned as well on a regular basis. Select seating areas were blocked off as well in order to spread out the crowd.
The one thing that nearly held up the festival was the AAU, which had canceled its own events. IHAAZ isn’t an AAU event but is run through AAU rules and insurance.
By Friday morning, the insurance side of things had been taken care of. Ultimately, everyone was required to sign a waiver.
Without question, it took some extra effort to pull off the event, but all things considered, it was a success.
“As far as the event itself, it went very well,” Boyarsky said. “The competition was really good, and it felt like a normal event. Tucson went above and beyond to be extra cautious. Everything was over-cleaned.”
But since that festival in March, everything has been on hold. The April festival in Prescott is already canceled and a decision will be made on the IHAAZ State Finals at the end of month.
The odds are against the state finals being played, but alternatives for down the road are being looked at.
“What I think will happen, once things normalize, is we will look at a time in the summer to put on a state final,” Boyarsky said. “There are just so many moving parts right now, but as soon things are normal, we will put on a state final for those that missed out. We want to be able to do something at some point.
“We’re just in a holding pattern right now like everyone else.”
Looking back now, Boyarsky said he’s glad IHAAZ was able to put on its March festival. He said he’s received a lot of positive feedback from parents as well regarding the decision to have the festival in Tucson.
“I’ve received a lot of emails and texts and Facebook messages from parents thanking us for putting the tournament on,” Boyarsky said. “Now that it’s been a few weeks, they are glad the tournament gave them one last hockey fix for the season.”
— Brian Lester
(April 22, 2020)