With new skaters off the ice, NWT clubs worry about the future

Last modified: October 20, 2020 at 4:02pm

Northwest Territories parents looking to enrol their kids in their first skating class may have to wait until the new year at the earliest.

Skating clubs in the territory aren’t letting children new to skating – who cannot balance or make forward motions on their skates on ice – for the time being.

The program coined Pre-CanSkate, where kids aged two and up can take to their ice with their parent and learn to skate, has been temporarily cancelled in NWT skating clubs.


The restriction is designed to limit contact between coaches and skaters, as new skaters can require a lot of hands-on assistance to teach them how to get comfortable on their own.

Kami Harney, head coach of the Fort Smith Skating Club, says this year’s cohort in the town consists of children aged four and up. who know how to stand and walk on skates.

Clubs in the NWT say they hope to see the rules change after Christmas, if it is safe to do so.

Lisa Hardy, executive director of Skate Canada’s Alberta, NWT, and Nunavut section, said the organization hopes to soon get new skaters back on the ice in the territory.

Revised programming for new skaters had not been developed when the protocols for NWT clubs and skating schools were released in August, Hardy said. She expects an adapted program to be available soon.


“We are expecting an updated set of NWT protocols to be released within the next few weeks, in which they are included,” Hardy said by email.

In that update, a parent-tot program will temporarily replace Pre-CanSkate.

According to Hardy, that program “will provide clubs the opportunity to deliver programming to those younger children, many of whom may experience skating for the first time while still being able to maintain the physical distance required.”

That program was already introduced to Alberta in mid-September.


Kim Myra, a coach for the Yellowknife Skating Club, said the city’s coaches are bound to the same rules as the Fort Smith club.

Myra described an incident where an inexperienced skater struggled on the ice. If that struggle becomes persistent, she said, the club may ask a skater to pause skating lessons until the rules changes and coaches can be more hands-on again.

‘They keep our club going’

Both clubs said parents looking to register young children have had to be turned away.

“We just hope parents understand that we’re protecting ourselves with what’s been happening with Covid,” Myra said.

It isn’t only the kids who lose out. Clubs will have no registration fees coming in from the classes they would typically run for younger skaters, in addition to running at a lower capacity for other age groups.

“Those CanSkate programs are what keeps our club going,” Myra said.

Harney worries about existing skaters losing the opportunity to hit the ice, but more so about others never signing up in the first place. That in turn may impact future programs, since groups of returning skaters could be smaller.

“We can’t invite new skaters, which is going to be a bit of a struggle for our club, I think,” she said.

“I’m also thinking we’re going to miss out on a crew of skaters that might not eventually get into figure skating.”

Other programs still running

A maximum of 25 socially distanced individuals are allowed on the ice under current restrictions. Those include staff, volunteers who assist with teaching, and students.

Fort Smith skaters will take to the ice on Monday while skaters in Yellowknife started up CanSkate programming earlier this week. Some figure skating had been happening since September.

Some programs have been split into smaller groups and run less frequently to evenly divide time on the ice, according to Harney.

“It’s not the best, but we’re waiting to see what registration brings us to see if we could maybe combine [classes] if we don’t get as many people,” she said.

Myra says the lack of contact between coach and skater means even some programs given the green light are difficult to navigate.

“We’re used to assisting the skaters – positioning with their leg, or their free leg in a jump, or something,” she said.

“So, we’re not physically touching the skaters as much.”

Correction: October 20, 2020 – 15:56 MT. An earlier version of this article suggested Skate Canada had implemented country-wide restrictions regarding programming for new skaters. In fact, the restrictions reported are specific to its Northwest Territories operations.