The Racquet Club in Yellowknife is rejoicing after receiving word from the NWT’s chief public health officer that Covid-19 restrictions relating to the sport of squash can be loosened.
On Monday, Dr Kami Kandola told the fitness centre it is now allowed “squash bubbles” of up to five people, club squash pro Jeff Hipfner said.
“Essentially, five people have to decide on who they want to play together,” Hipfner told Cabin Radio. “They’re going to have to register that five-person bubble with us, and then they can play regular games amongst themselves and those five people.
“They’re not allowed to cross over bubbles to play people in other bubbles.”
Previously, only one person – or two people from the same household – had been allowed on each court.
The Racquet Club submitted its proposal for squash bubbles to public health officials on September 8.
“This is what we’ve been waiting for,” said owner Kelli Hinchey as the plan was approved. “It’s a huge relief right now.”
Hinchey had earlier told Cabin Radio the initial, harsher restrictions had “annihilated” her club’s squash program.
“You can’t have a regular squash match with a buddy,” Hinchey said at the time. “So, I can go out for dinner with my pal, sit across the table from him, but I can’t play squash with the same person in a court that is massive. There is no logical reason for this.
“The Racquet Club? We are squash in the North. It is resulting in people cancelling their memberships because they can’t play squash and right now, we need people to purchase memberships.”
Hinchey estimated the club had lost about half of its membership subscriptions during the Covid-19 pandemic.
‘A huge relief’
Hipfner seconded Hinchey’s frustrations regarding the former restrictions.
“Not everyone wants to get on court solo, just do drills by yourself,” he said. “There’s very few people who would do that.
“[The bubbles] get people on-court playing each other again and allow those members to come back.”
In addition to the bubbles, players aren’t allowed to touch each other, must keep physically distanced while on the court, and are expected to maintain proper handwashing and hygiene practices.
The Racquet Club is one of three squash facilities in the NWT alongside centres in Inuvik and Fort Smith. The others are municipally owned.
Hipfner hopes the new plan will help the Inuvik and Fort Smith clubs.
“Squashes is a pretty vibrant community all across Canada. In Yellowknife and all across the NWT it’s very community-oriented. People like to hang out, it can be very social,” he said.
Hinchey added: “We just want to get our members back on the squash court, and they want to be back on the squash court.”
Those looking to register squash bubbles of five people can contact the Racquet Club directly.