GLACE BAY, N.S. -- As COVID-19 restrictions ease, Hockey Canada has lifted a ban on all sanctioned activities for the first time since mid-March. With the ban lifted, it's now up to provincial branches to decide how and when kids can hit the ice safely. The announcement is a glimmer of hope for young Maritime hockey players looking to get back onto the rink.

With rinks being closed for over two months, hockey has been a game left in limbo in Glace Bay, N.S. Long-time referee, Nick Bonnar has been involved with the sport for over 50 years and says being pulled off the ice because of a pandemic is a first for him.

"It's tough to watch something that you love and not be able to do it – it's very trying," says Bonnar, adding recreational activities are what young players need right now.

"You feel for the kids – they're your answer, they're our future," says Bonnar. "They have a lot of stuff going on and a lot of negativity in the world. I think they need that balance of 'let's put some life back in it and get back at it, and play hockey.'"

Hockey Canada has lifted its ban on sanctioned activities, which allows the 13 governing bodies of Minor Hockey Associations across the country to individually decide when it's safe for their players to play.

"We've been on hold from collecting our uniforms, to our annual awards banquets, to our 50/50 draw," says Glace Bay Minor Hockey president, James Edwards.

In a release, Hockey Canada says the best approach is for each provincial branch to work with its regional public health authorities to determine the appropriate steps to return to the ice.

Edwards says his association will be ready when given permission.

"I don't think it's going to affect our registration too much," says Edwards. "Kids want to play hockey; we want them to play hockey. Hockey Nova Scotia has been working on a return to the game plan."

Higher levels of hockey are still working on ways to play the game again as well. On Saturday, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League held its annual draft, with a start date for the upcoming season pushed back to a tentative date of October 1. Also, the National Hockey League is trying to put together a plan for this summer.

Meanwhile, when it comes to playing the game, some are skeptical about how hockey will look as players await a return to Canada's favourite pastime.

"You can practice hockey, for sure," says Bonnar, noting most rinks are generally spacious. "Thirty kids can be on the ice. You can put a lot of kids six feet apart; playing the game, I think, will be a tough one."