There continues to be uncertainty when it comes to the return of hockey, and a lot of it isn't within the control of organizers in the district.
"We have to wait on that mandate from different organizations all the way from the Government of Canada to Hockey Northwestern Ontario," says Mike Sveinson, president of the Dryden GM Ice Dogs.
The Ice Dogs' season came to a sudden close just before the playoffs earlier this year, as public health agencies and governments at all levels shutdown arenas across the country in mid-March.
"We don't have a lot of say in some of the factors that are going to dictate whether or not we're going to have a season," Sveinson added.
If the virus was under control, and public health agencies reopened arenas, the team will still have to deal with some financial realities.
"It's terrible. The uncertainty portion is terrible. We've learned not to forecast too far," Sveinson continued.
Fundraising with large groups or face-to-face meetings aren't allowed now, and the impact of COVID-19 on local businesses has been significant, Sveinson noted. Missing out on a playoff run also cost the team between $8,000 and $10,000 a night for a playoff drive of four to seven home games for a gap of between $30,000 and $70,000 in a budget of about $350,000.
Still, Sveinson says he's seen the team run on as little as $190,000. So, input from volunteers and public support will be key, he emphasized.
"We'll get through it for this year," he underlined, saying the team will continue, even if there isn't a season for 2020-2021.
He said the appetite for recruiting hasn't changed, and he says recruiting players -- including local talent -- isn't an issue.
"It's been very successful. It's been very positive," he added.
"I love when we have Thistle players playing Ice Dogs," he said, listing off AAA alumni like Ben Hackl, Trey Palermo and Trevor Kavanaugh.
The big thing for us is to see changes on social restrictions," he said, noting the public gatherings.
"At five people, that's not enough to run a hockey program," he added, stating the obvious.
The border restrictions between the U.S. and Canada are another key.
"Those are things we can't control. We're just dealing with things we can control here in Dryden," he added.
Sveinson appreciated the importance of the organization to the community, and he appealed to supporters for their help, as the team looks to put together a team and home game experience as close to normal as possible, following the pandemic.
Quite literally, an encouraging sign of public support has been the campaign in Dryden for frontline workers. It's run similar to the flocking of residences by friends and families, with proceeds to service clubs. This spring, the team has put the out in public places to both encourage the effort to fight COVID-19, as well as raise funds for the team.
"It's a great fundraiser for us," said Sveinson.
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