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MHC Update, COVID-19 and Rink Operations, 31 May 2020,

Hello Shark Families,

Our hockey activities remain suspended.  This week, St. Louis County published Youth and Adult Sports Guidelines that will enable the resumption of controlled hockey activities on June 15th.  The guidelines published this week provide guiding principles, requirements, and details regarding permitted activities during this phase of a return to activities. St. Louis County is following recommendations created on May 15th, that resulted from collaboration among sports medicine and pediatric infectious disease professionals in the St. Louis Metropolitan area. SSM Health, BJC HealthCare and Mercy collaborated to provide recommendations as it relates to the resocialization of both youth and high school sports during the COVID-19 pandemic in the St. Louis region.  The recommendation outlines a four-phased approach for a safe return to sports.  The guidelines published by the County this week represent the guidance for the first phase. We anticipate that we will progress through the respective phases in two week intervals as long as our community progress regarding COVID-19 is maintained.

In the past week, members of your Board of Directors began the detailed work of reformatting and fitting our programs against the requirements outlined in the County guidance.  In the upcoming week, we will continue to refine potential ice schedules as well as create complete guidance for safe rink operations that will detail player, parent, coach, and volunteer requirements.  I hope to be able to share details with you as soon as possible, but ask you to remain patient. The COVID-19 virus has created an extremely challenging environment for us.  We will not short-cut safety, and we will be compliant with guidance provided by the County and recommended by medical experts.  There are many facets to restructuring activities in the fairest way possible while complying with strict limitations and diverse safety requirements.  Our goal is to provide a tentative detailed ice schedule of the first two weeks as well a summary of our program changes by Thursday of this week.  It is also very important for us to recognize that the guidance could change. On behalf of your Board of Directors, I will advise you soonest if there are changes that will effect the June 15th start date. 

This week, we received questions regarding published activities of other clubs in our area.  I do not have insight regarding the decisions or decision making processes of other hockey clubs.  My insights and priorities are focused on MHC. Our focus has been to understand the County guidance and panel recommendations that I previously described. I have twice corresponded directly with the Office of the St. Louis County Executive to clarify the guidance, and that office confirmed that June 15th was the date that gyms, pools, and sporting venues such as ours would be allowed to open.  Since the day that we suspended our hockey activities, I have emphasized to you that the safety of our players and families is our first priority.  That has not changed, and it will not change in the future.   The phased approach to the return of sports activities is intended to provide the safest environment possible, and was recommended by medical experts.  We will continue to comply with the guidelines provided.  

Please stay healthy and safe!

Larry Borkowski

President, MHC      

MHC Update, COVID-19 and Rink Operations, response to new STL County guidelines, 25 May 2020,

Hello Shark Families,

I hope you are all well, and enjoying the Memorial Day Holiday Weekend.  While our operations remain suspended, new St. Louis County announcements indicate that we will be able to resume some operations on June 15th.  Based on recommendations made to the County by a panel of experts, it appears that MHC’s reopening will occur in a series of controlled phases, with conditions intended to mitigate risk to our players and families. At this time, we do not know the full details of what the County will provide.

In the next few weeks, please expect to see more communications that will include a modified program schedule as well as rink operating procedures. It is very important for all of us to recognize that the transition to resuming on-ice activities will be slow, and we will be compliant with the standards and orders provided by St. Louis County.  We will not immediately return to our full scope of operations and activities.  Things will certainly look different.  The safety of our players and families will continue to be our highest priority. We will do our best to execute our delayed spring programs while making ice available for our players.  Our priority for scheduling ice will be our MHC programs.  It is very likely that we will have some ice times that will be available for private sale.  When those times are known, we will publish the available times along with the process to make ice purchases. 

I realize that many of you have questions about what lies ahead.  Your Board of Director’s will be working together to answer those questions in the coming weeks.  I also realize that many of us have varying opinions regarding the actions taken by the County in response to the virus, and how that has impacted our activities.  I recognize the frustration, and understand that this has been a difficult time for many reasons.  It is in the best interest of our hockey club, our players, and our families to comply with and follow the County orders. St. Louis County will provide details for a phased return to our activities.  MO Hockey has accepted the guidance, and is formulating a summer schedule that should result in an on-time start to our fall season.  Our club will also adhere to the guidance.

Please be patient as we balance our scheduling activities against the coming County guidance.  We will continue to communicate, and provide as much detail that we can, as early as possible, to assist you in planning your family activities.

 

Please continue to stay safe and healthy!

 

Thank you,

Larry Borkowski

President, MHC

MHC Update, COVID-19 and Rink Operations, response to STL County guidelines, 17 May 2020,

Hello Shark Families,

I hope you are safe and staying healthy.  There is no change to our operating status since last week’s update. All MHC hockey activities remain suspended.  

I want to take this opportunity to advise all of you that after the new County guidance was published last week, I sent a note to Dr. Page, the St. Louis County Executive.  The intent of the communication was to clarify the County guidance, to emphasize the negative impact the prolonged closure has on our business, and to query when we may be able to resume hockey activities in our facility.  In the note, I stressed that our organization was aware that risks would require mitigation, and we planned to move forward with safety conditions in place.

I received a reply from Dr. Page’s office this week. The reply confirmed that sporting events and activities, including hockey, will not be able to open with other businesses tomorrow.  As data demonstrates the ability to control the spread of the virus, more openings will be phased in. That could include hockey activities.  However, no definitive date was provided, and the reply stated that when we do have the opportunity to reopen, there will certainly be significant social distancing requirements. The Office of the County Executive expressed appreciation for the thought we are putting into the safety of our players and families.

Your Board of Directors will continue to keep safety as our priority. We realize our role in the community, and we will remain compliant with the County guidance.  While the reply I received from Dr. Page did not provide a change to our current status, I wanted all of you to know that while we fully understand the potential dangers of this virus, we are also not sitting idly.  We will continue to seek clarification when appropriate, and we will continue to plan to resume activities as soon as possible while setting conditions in our facility that will mitigate risks to our players and families.

Please continue to be patient.  On behalf of your Board of Directors, I thank you for your cooperation. 

Stay healthy and stay safe!

Thanks,

Larry Borkowski

President, MHC

 

MHC Update, COVID-19 and Rink Operations, response to new STL County guidelines, 08 May 2020,

Hello Shark Families ,

Based on the release of new St. Louis County guidance, it seems appropriate to provide an update a little earlier this week than I have in past weeks. It is exciting to see the County relaxing restrictions set in place in response to COVID-19. Unfortunately, after review of the new St. Louis County policy, it is clear that our hockey operations and activities will remain in a suspended status.

There is no indication of how long this first phase of reduced restrictions will last. However, please know that your Board of Directors continues to plan and consider potential ways forward when we do eventually return. As I have communicated in prior updates, it is clear that our planned programs will be modified. But, specific details cannot be determined due to the uncertainty of when we will be cleared to open, and what social distancing requirements will be in place at that time.

Regarding a related topic, our Rink Manager, Lance Kammien, has been contacted many times regarding whether sheets of ice can be purchased for use. At this time, and for the duration of our suspended operations, MHC is not making any ice available for sale or use. When we resume operations, our priority will be to use our ice to move our planned programs forward. At that time, there may be sheets of ice that will be available for purchase. When we have determined that we have ice available, MHC will make an announcement, and provide details regarding what is available, and how it can be purchased.

Hopefully, the restrictions will be further reduced soon, and we will be able to resume hockey activities. Thanks you for your patience.

Please stay safe and healthy!

Larry Borkowski

President, MHC

MHC Update, COVID-19 and Rink Operations, 03 May 2020

Hello Shark Families,

            MHC operations remain suspended. This week, a sub-group of your Board of Directors will discuss potential scenarios and program modifications that may be feasible when St. Louis County re-opens. Our intent is to be prepared to adapt our spring programs to the social distancing and gathering limits we will likely be constrained by. 

We hope this preparation will enable us to safely start hockey activities as soon as possible. As the county will almost certainly open in a phased approach, you can expect hockey activities to do the same.  Not all programs will begin immediately. We will make every effort to provide the most workable return to the ice that is possible. Please be patient, and flexible. On behalf of your Board of Directors, I will continue to communicate the latest developments to ensure our entire club is aware of our way forward. 

Please stay safe and healthy!

Thanks,

Larry Borkowski

President, MHC 

 

 

 

MHC Update, COVID-19 and Rink Operations, 26 April 2020

Hello Shark Families,

The MHC operating status has not changed. All MHC operations and programs remain suspended. 

There are signs that we may be able to resume operations in the near future as the Missouri Governor has announced some businesses will soon be able to open. Ultimately, our County guidance will be the key factor in determining when we can resume operations, and under what conditions. St.  Louis County remains under a stay at home ordinance until mid-May. We will closely monitor any change or developments to our County guidance. 

I have previously communicated that MHC intends to run the spring programs in their entirety. That has not changed. When all State and County guidance allows, we will run our spring programs. The format and timing of some aspects of the programs may require modification.  Depending on the conditions outlined in future State and County guidance, there is likely to be social distancing requirements and gathering limitations that we will comply with. Based on these potential conditions, some programs may be more conducive to operating. Please expect us to operate as soon as it is safe and within published guidance. To accomplish this, we may start some programs before others. Your Board of Directors will remain flexible and consider all options to resume our hockey activities. All future ice schedules and updates regarding our programs will be communicated via the channels that you have been seeing these updates. 

Finally, I think it is important to note that when we are able to resume operations, it is likely that we will publish specific parameters regarding our rink operations. For example, these parameters could set limits on the numbers of players in locker rooms, or physical distance between parents observing hockey activities. Please expect to see this guidance when we eventually resume operations. It is likely that these operating parameters will be necessary for MHC to comply with State and County guidance. Cooperation and patience will be essential. 

Safety of our Shark players and families will remain our highest priority. Hopefully, our players will be back on the ice soon. In the meantime, please stay safe and stay healthy!

Thanks,

Larry Borkowski

President, MHC

 

 

MHC Update, COVID-19 and Rink Operations, 19 April 2020

Hello Shark Families,

I hope that you are all doing well and staying healthy! MHC’s operations remain suspended. Hopefully we will be back on the ice soon. We will continue to monitor all guidance provided by our federal, state, and county governments. When the guidance allows us to do so, we intend to start our postponed spring programs in their entirety. Depending on the actual start date, some scheduling modifications may be necessary. These potential changes, and any impact on registration fees, will be communicated to all before we commence the programs. 

The Board of Directors has received questions regarding volunteer hours. When we resume operations, there will be opportunities to complete volunteer requirements. We will not keep any volunteer deposit checks from those members who make an honest effort to fulfill their volunteer requirements. No action on any checks will be taken while our operations are suspended. Our Volunteer Director, Mike Reuss, is tracking all volunteer time and will communicate with all members who have an outstanding volunteer hour balance once we resume operations. 

I also want to take a moment to highlight that while our operations have been suspended, we have utilized this time to effectively improve the Shark Tank. Our rink manager, Lance Kammien, and his staff have ensured the completion of painting of walls, stripping and waxing floors, installation of additional handrails on steps, cleaning of all rink glass, the bleachers have been pulled out and thoroughly cleaned, the locker room walls have been scrubbed, and the entire facility has been cleaned several times.  We also had numerous parent volunteers assist with some of these projects before the quarantine direction from St. Louis County.  More improvements are planned. When we resume operations, the Tank will be like new and ready for our players to get back to hockey. 

Please take care and stay healthy!

Thanks,

Larry Borkowski

President, MHC

 

MHC Update, COVID-19 and Rink Operations, 5 April 2020

Hello Shark Families,

I hope this update finds you all well as we continue to cope with the circumstances that the Corona Virus outbreak created. The MHC operating status remains suspended. All spring programs remain in a postponed status. 

I want to clarify that our spring programs are not cancelled. Our hope and intent is to run all our spring programs in their entirety, or with the least modification possible. Based on the current environment, it is not possible to provide any potential dates when MHC will be able to resume our activities and programs. 

We will continue to monitor developments regarding the virus with the intent to begin our hockey operations as soon as it is safely possible, and in a manner that is fully compliant and consistent with the guidance that is made available to us. While we all miss hockey, the most important thing for our players and families is to stay safe, comply with all guidance, and remain healthy. Thanks for your patience - please stay well!

V/r... Larry Borkowski

President, MHC

MHC Update on Rink Operations and COVID-19, 29 March 2020

Hello Shark Families,

                The operating status of Shark programs and activities remains unchanged. All spring programs remain in a postponed status. 

The Meramec Sharks golf tournament, normally held in late spring, will not take place. We are considering potential dates for that fundraiser in the fall. 

No definitive decisions have been made regarding when our hockey activities will resume.  Decisions concerning MHC’s operating status is dependent on the orders and guidance put in place because of the Corona Virus and social distancing efforts. Ideally, we hope to run our spring programs in their entirety. We recognize that modifications may be necessary, and we will consider these as more information becomes available. 

Please stay safe and healthy!

 

Larry Borkowski

President, MHC

 

MHC Update, COVID-19 and Rink Operations, 22 March 2020

Hello Shark Families,

One week ago, we made the decision to suspend MHC Hockey Operations for two weeks. All MHC programs and activities remain suspended. This suspension is further extended until at least April 22, 2020. 

In the last week, the situation created by efforts to control the spread of the Corona Virus made it clear that our pause would be longer than we originally hoped. We will continue to monitor new developments and advise you of our operating status. We have not definitively cancelled any of our planned activities, instead, all spring programs are currently in a postponed status. Additionally, our rink staff has been present conducting deep cleaning as well as making improvements to the rink. You can expect another update on MHC’s status in a week, potentially sooner if there is a major change. 

The crisis created by this virus is effecting all of us. While we are all anxious to resume hockey, MHC will remain compliant with all mandated guidelines and we will stay consistent with the intent of these guidelines and the community efforts to enforce social distancing. On behalf of your Board of Directors I want to thank all of you for your patience and understanding. Please take care, and stay well. 

Thanks again,

Larry Borkowski

President, MHC

MHC Central States Division Announcement 

 

MOHockey has voted to change the structure of AA Hockey.

Missouri Hockey has voted in favor of changing the structure of the AA Division for the Pee Wee and Bantam age groups.  This vote represents the culmination of a coordinated effort and our Club was represented in the process. It is important to note that this plan is not completely finalized.  The Central States League must still vote and accept this way forward.  This plan will be detailed to the Central States League by early next week for their approval. The purpose of this note is to inform you of the intent of this potential action and summarize the changes it entails for our Club and players.

 

The AA environment in Missouri was not healthy.

For several years, MOHockey provided a Tier II AA Division at the Squirt thru Midget age groups, while several Clubs in the area also provided Tier II AA teams that competed outside of the MOHockey division in the Central States League.  Unfortunately, there were noticeable consequences resulting from the number of AA Teams.  MOHockey expressed concerns that AA skill was spread too thin, based on the performance of both MOHockey AA teams in tournament play as well as the performance of the St. Louis based Central States teams in the Central States league.  Worse, the number of teams, and the fact that the CS teams were run by Clubs in a manner independent of MOHockey lead to Clubs, including Meramec, losing players to other Clubs that participated in Central States.  Recruiting, and working around the registration processes became prevalent; creating an environment that was counterproductive to MoHockey families and players  

 

Consolidating MOHockey AA into inclusive Central States teams resolves issues.

MOHockey will provide a governing body for the St. Louis area teams that compete in the Central States Tier II AA league.  The agreement in place is for a two-year pilot program that enables MOHockey to enter three (3) AA teams at the Pee Wee and Bantam age levels. These teams will complete in the 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009 birth year groups.   The teams for each birth year group will be fairly drawn from fencing the combination of current Club zip codes.  This fencing will be strictly enforced, with few exceptions.  

 

The fencing structure is expected to provide the most optimal distribution of skill, and the strict adherence to the structure prevents Clubs from losing players.  Narrowing the number of AA teams will provide a higher level of skilled play at the AA level, while also allowing higher levels of play at the respective Club levels as part of MOHockey Travel and House Divisions. 

 

Beginning in the upcoming 2020-2021 Fall season, the respective birth year teams from the three Central States fenced groups will represent MOHockey’s AA Division for Pee Wee and Bantam  and will participate in the Blue Note Cup Playoffs.  There will no longer be a separate Tier II MOHockey AA Division for Pee Wee and Bantam.  A1 will be the highest MOHockey level now at Pee Wee and Bantam.  MOHockey will continue to have a AA Division for Squirt players.  However, no Club will be allowed to enter Squirt teams in Central States play.  Additionally, there will be no changes to the Midget AA structure.  For Midgets, there will be Open District teams competing in the Central States AA League and separate Open District AA teams competing in the MoHockey League.   

 

This change will have impacts on MHC.

There will be many positive impacts due to this change.  MHC will retain more of our players and will be able to provide a path to Tier I AAA level hockey through our Club.  Players will not have to leave MHC to pursue a high level of play.  This will also create a higher skill level of play amongst the players remaining in MHC programs.  Our Shark AA players will not be playing for another Club.  The AA Central States team for Shark players will be new – and will draw from the zip codes of MHC, Affton, and Southern Illinois.   Representatives from Affton, Southern Illinois, and MHC will form a Committee that will govern these four new teams and share resources, to include ice times and coaching staffs.  The team name and uniform will be new, and not look like any of the existing Affton, Southern Illinois and MHC Club uniforms.   Travel will be decided by each team. But league play will take place with Chicago based teams, and teams may expect to travel to Chicago 4-6 times for league games.  Other tournaments will be decided individually by teams.   

 

In closing:

This transition will likely not be perfect, which is expected when an organization and group of organizations move a program in a different direction.  In many cases, we will learn lessons as we go, and have to apply those lessons learned.  This change of direction is favorable from a development perspective, and over time will provide opportunities for the highest skilled players, and more competitive hockey with higher skill levels in all MOHockey divisions.  The MHC Board will maintain a high level of involvement in this new way forward and ensure the fairest environment for our Club. We will provide more information to our MHC members as specific details about the Central States AA team are developed.

 

Please direct all questions to Don Arias, MHC Director of Player Development, at playerdevelopment@meramecsharks.com

 

Thank you,

                  Larry Borkowski

                  President, MHC

 

Letter from MHC President concerning COVID-19 and Rink Operations

** Corona Virus Update #4

Hello Shark Families ,

On behalf of your Board of Directors, I want to advise you of a change to MHC programs and activities. Starting on Monday, March 16th, MHC will suspend all programs and on-ice activities for a two week period.

There were many factors that infuenced this decision, and I will highlight some of them. Shark Week for our 6U/8U players and families was scheduled for the upcoming week, as was the start of our spring programs. We hoped that we could alter our Shark Week activities in a way that would allow us to safely continue the activites. This effort to modify Shark Week activities, and potentially minimize the number of participants at the rink was well intended, but proved to create an event that actually contradicted the reason we have Shark Week. Shark Week is intended to be family oriented. It is intended for maximum participation, and enjoyment for entire hockey families. While modifications may have enabled compliance with the County group gathering guidance, it stripped away what makes the events that comprise Shark Week memorable. 

With regard to our spring programs, the high degree of uncertainty of what lies ahead in the upcoming weeks factored in greatly. Each day is marked by changes that are intended to create an environment of social distancing. It is truly not clear what restrictions or guidance lie ahead. MHC is at a time on our calendar that we have a definitive break between our fall and spring programs. With many indications suggesting the very strong possibility of the need to suspend operations at some point in the near future, taking advantage of this change in schedules enables us to take a pause very cleanly, with the most flexibility and options when we resume operations.

I want to emphasize that this is a pause in operations. It is not a permanent stoppage, nor have we definitively cancelled any particular activity. Our intention will be to resume our programs and activities as soon as it is prudent and feasible. We will also do our best to re-schedule suspended activities, and run the duration of our planned spring programs in their entirety - if it is possible to do so. 

Your Board of Directors will work together to determine the best way forward for our hockey programs and activites, as well as determining the appropriate time to resume operations. There are many unknowns that complicate this decision making. The safety of our players and families is our priority. Also critical is our role in the community, and our wilingness to support the policies and ongoing efforts to curb the potential spread of the virus with social distancing. Your support and cooperation will be critical as we move forward. While I will not be providing a daily update, you can expect communication within a week regarding the progress we are making with the planning effort, as well as any other factors that may be pertinent to resuming operations. 

Thank you,

Larry Borkowski
President, MHC

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