OLDS — An Olds resident chosen to help coach a prestigious hockey tournament is hopeful it will proceed, despite the spread of the Omicron COVID variant.
A Team Alberta spokesman is also anticipating it will go ahead, but says the organization will be ready to “pivot” and comply with whatever restrictions might be imposed.
Jason Jaffray has been named an assistant coach with Team Capital Green in the 2022 Alberta Hockey Prospects Cup for second-year U13 athletes, scheduled to be held May 11-15 in Red Deer.
During an interview, Jaffray was asked if he was concerned that the fast-spreading Omicron variant could result in the tournament being shut down.
Jaffray noted he runs a hockey team, the Central Alberta Longhorns. Their season got shut down last year, due to COVID.
“I was worrying about it daily,” he said. “I’ve got to the point now where I don’t get too excited for things anymore and don’t worry about whether they’re going to be cancelled anymore because you never know what’s going to happen next week, or tomorrow for that sake.”
Hockey Alberta elite male hockey coordinator Kelly Hudson is taking much the same approach.
As of last week, he said, the plan was to operate as normal.
“But (we’re) certainly aware of the fact of our ever-changing landscape and would have contingency plans in place if we had to pivot,” Hudson said.
“We are prepared to adapt if need be. What that looks like, it would have to depend on what the restrictions are like – certainly what the landscape is like health-wise.”
Hudson admitted it’s been pretty challenging to plan tournaments in a COVID environment.
“The word ‘pivot’ you keep hearing, but you pivot,” he said.
“You adapt to what your surroundings are and you try to do the best job you possibly can to make sure that we’re doing everything possible to ensure that it’s a healthy and safe environment for the kids to participate in something that they love doing.
“It’s been interesting, let’s say that. But you know, we're getting used to it.”
Meanwhile, Jaffary is excited about the opportunity to coach in the prospects tournament, assuming it does go ahead.
He says he’s been able to participate in some online meetings with fellow coaches and officials.
Jaffray, originally from Rimbey, made it all the way to the NHL, playing off and on for the Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets before ending his career with a five-year stint in Munichen, Germany.
He retired after the 2019-2020 season and now trains youth, primarily in hockey and baseball.
Jaffray said he’s looking forward to coaching at the elite level, saying it’s a chance to pass on the knowledge and skills he gained during his career.
“I think I’ve got a lot of knowledge to give when it comes to the hockey side — on the ice and off the ice,” he said.
“I actually have trained a lot of the 2009 boys through my spring hockey programs, so I know a lot of that age group. I know how to push them. I know where their deficiencies are and how to help develop their skills.”
So definitely not my first time head coaching or coaching, but it’s kind of my passion to be involved in the youth sports and help develop kids at all ages, all levels.”
And he’s had some significant success.
Olds Minor hockey’s U13AA hockey team, which Jaffray coaches, won the Deker tournament in Airdrie during the Jan. 8 weekend.
They also won the SSAC Christmas tournament in overtime in Edmonton.