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Sports programs adjust to the Games

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Sports and recreation groups in Whistler have a mixed response to the Olympics, from business as usual to closing up shop for two to three weeks.

Most clubs polled parents before making their schedules for the season, but there were other factors to consider - the availability of space, the number of athletes away on holiday, restricted access and traffic on the highway, the lack of parking in the village, and coaches and athletes attending or volunteering at events.

As well, both elementary schools will be closed for one week and the high school for three weeks during the Games, which some groups see as an opportunity to expand their programs as kids and families could be looking for things to do.

Coming into this season the Whistler Minor Hockey Association - and the leagues they play in - were keenly aware of the impact that the Games might have on their schedules.

February 12 to 28 is typically a busy time for minor hockey, but this year the league started its competitive schedule early so regular season play and a good part of the playoffs would be wrapped up in time for the Olympics. There is a chance that some Whistler teams could still be playing during the Olympics, but on a playoff schedule.

"If that's what we've got to do, then we'll find a way to do it. We'll get travel passes, and do what we can," said Whistler Minor Hockey Association president Cam Fellows. "Right now we just have to wait and see how things unfold. It's going to be interesting because there isn't any ice time in the city during the Games, and all of those teams are going to be crammed into a few rinks that aren't being used for the Olympics."

Fellows said the Resort Municipality of Whistler has not rented any arena space for Games activities, and that the WMHA will hold onto its ice time to hold practices and scrimmages. While the official season will be over for most teams there are still tournaments to train for, and kids expect to keep playing hockey through to the spring.

As for the league itself, most games should be wrapped up before the Olympics.

The WMHA also took the unusual step of putting together large teams this year to ensure that every team in every division has enough players.

"In the past we would have teams with 12 or 13 players, but this year we left a bunch of teams oversized because we know that on every team there are half a dozen families that are leaving town for the Games," said Fellows. "We didn't want to leave any team so small that we could run into an issue in the playoffs."

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