Hockey Sidelined Again

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on
LinkedIn
+

After months on the sidelines, youth hockey players across the state eagerly laced up their skates in August. Under current youth and amateur sports guidelines, locker rooms operate at 50 percent capacity, only one spectator should attend per player, and players wear masks on the bench. Unlike in MIAA high school sports, players do not wear facemasks while they play, except during faceoffs. 

Unfortunately, these restrictions failed to insulate the hockey community from COVID-19. After several coronavirus clusters were linked to the sport, Governor Baker ordered hockey rinks to close from October 23 until at least November 7. Thirty clusters and at least 110 cases have been traced back to hockey rinks. The number of cases is likely much higher than that, with the Department of Health citing 220 close contacts and 22 probable cases. 

Governor Baker understands the importance of hockey for many Massachusetts families and acknowledges “the shutdown wasn’t welcome news.” However, Baker is not alone in his concern over hockey rinks. State officials in New Hampshire and Vermont enacted similar measures after COVID-19 outbreaks were linked to hockey in their states. 

In New Hampshire, players were welcomed back to the rink on Friday, October 29 under new regulations. Players and coaches in New Hampshire have to test negative for COVID-19 before November 6 to be eligible for play. However, the state’s testing capacity has failed to accommodate the 20,000 members of the hockey community. At testing sites in Manchester, NH, administrators worried that symptomatic patients would not be able to get a test because of the high demand from hockey players. 

Meanwhile, in Vermont, Governor Scott imposed milder restrictions. He ordered that ice rinks not accept new reservations from October 16 until October 30. Existing events, however, were allowed to continue. Scott also asked the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community to “determine if a more aggressive response is needed to prevent further spread of COVID-19 related to activities in indoor skating, hockey and other recreational facilities.” 

  Governor Baker argues the danger does not come from hockey itself. Rather, he worries about interactions between attendees and players off the ice at tournaments. As Baker explains, “these tournaments involve people showing up at a rank at seven or eight o’clock in the morning, playing a series of games over the course of the day, and basically spending more time at the rink with each other, engaged in conversation, sharing food, potentially sharing a drink.” Kevin Kavanagh, executive director of Massachusetts hockey, shares a similar view. He has not heard of confirmed cases from transmission on the ice. Despite such confidence from Kavanagh and Baker, the CDC still labels hockey a “high-risk” sport. 

The stakes are high for keeping hockey rinks safe. Hockey games bring together players from across towns and even states. An outbreak at a tournament has the potential to impact several school districts and communities. With most schools on hybrid schedules, students already have limited time in the classroom. If coaches and players hope to return to the rink, their behavior and protocols have to change. 

Contact tracing is a key strategy to contain the virus and open schools and sports safely. Governor Baker and Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders are disappointed with the lack of cooperation with that effort. In many cases, coaches have refused to share team rosters with contact tracers and even allowed players who should be under quarantine to participate on other teams. The president of Massachusetts Hockey Bob Joyce denounced the failure of teams and coaches, saying “we do not support the obstruction of contact tracing and believe that families, programs and facilities all need to work together to facilitate the process.” For hockey to resume, as so many players hope it will, coaches will have no choice but to participate in contact tracing efforts. Secretary Sudders warns that, under updated guidelines, teams could be banned from play if they fail to share rosters and answer calls about contact tracing.

Beyond restricted contact tracing, state officials have another difficult problem to combat—inconsistency. Although the U.S. Ice Rink Association’s Returning to the Rinks guidelines and state sport regulations help ensure safety, state officials cannot police every rink across the state. Ultimately the burden falls on rink operators and coaches to follow safety protocol, and according to Julie Pryor, a hockey mom from Newton, not all of them do. She explains “the problem is that you play hockey the next day in a different rink, in a different town, and it’s like there’s no pandemic happening. Anybody can go in, nobody’s enforcing the rules.” 

Athletics provide incredible value for children. Young athletes improve their physical health, find an outlet for stress, and form friendships with teammates. Youth sports also yield success in the classroom and workplace. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, children need sports more than ever. Across Massachusetts, most students learn from home at least part-time and lack social interaction. Natalie Duncan shared her disappointment, saying “I’ve been remote and hockey is like my only time out of the house. So it’s going to be hard not playing.” For Natalie and 50,000 other Massachusetts youth hockey players to get back on the ice, cooperation with contract tracing and strengthened safety protocols are key. 

COVID-19 Safety Recommendations

  •  Contact tracing efforts need to be improved, and coaches and parents will be expected to comply and provide rosters
  •  Players and coaches should get tested and quarantine for fourteen days if they are contacted about a potential exposure
  • Players should show up to the rink dressed for the game to limit time in the locker room
  • Social distancing standards and safety protocol should be consistent in all rinks
  • In Vermont, epidemiologist Patsy Kelso warns that the risk of transmission increases when players travel to out-of-state or county games that are high-risk communities for COVID-19. For MIAA high school sports, teams cannot compete with schools in the designated red zones (>8k cases per 100,000 people). Currently, youth hockey does not have those restrictions. 

Maddy Lowy is an intern at the Pioneer Institute. She will be a first year at the University of Virginia next fall. 

Get Our COVID-19 News, Tips & Resources!

Related Posts

A Republic of Laws – The U.S. Supreme Court – 40 Resources for High School Students

In Pioneer’s ongoing series of blogs on curricular resources for parents, families, and teachers during COVID-19, this one focuses on: Celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court.

Study Calls for Better Reporting on Impact of COVID-19 in Eldercare Facilities

Over time, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services and Department of Public Health (DPH) have improved reporting about cases and deaths from COVID-19 in state-regulated eldercare facilities, but flaws and omissions remain and should be corrected, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute.

“The Road to the Stars” – U.S. Space Exploration – 25 Resources for K-12 Students

In Pioneer’s ongoing series of blogs on curricular resources for parents, families, and teachers during COVID-19, this one focuses on: Celebrating U.S. Space Exploration.

Amar Sawhney on Sikhs, STEM & COVID

On this week's episode of JobMakers, host Denzil Mohammed talks to Dr. Amar Sawhney about his journey from India to Boston, and how he is using his chemical engineering background to save lives through remarkable local therapy innovations. To date, he has founded eight companies accounting for 4,000 jobs and more than $2 billion in revenue.

Heritage Foundation’s Jonathan Butcher on Edu Federalism, School Choice, Learning Pods

This week on “The Learning Curve," Gerard and Cara talk with Jonathan Butcher, the Will Skillman Fellow in Education at The Heritage Foundation. They discuss the growing popularity of learning pods, an education innovation propelled by K-12 public education’s failure to meet the COVID-19 moment. With as many as three million children enrolled in learning pods, 35 percent of parents participating in them, and another 18 percent interested in joining one, Butcher shares findings from his report on the role of pods in expanding parent-driven educational choice options.

Study Says Interstate Tax Competition, Relocation Subsidies Exacerbate Telecommuting Trends

A spate of new incentive and subsidy programs seeking to lure talented workers and innovative businesses away from their home states could constitute an additional challenge to Massachusetts’ economic and fiscal recovery from COVID-19, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute.

“The Business of America is Business” – 25 Resources for High School Students

In Pioneer’s ongoing series of blogs on curricular resources for parents, families, and teachers during COVID-19, this one focuses on: Celebrating American Free-Market Capitalism.

Georgetown’s Dr. Marguerite Roza on K-12 School Finance, Spending, & Results

This week on “The Learning Curve," Gerard and Cara talk with Dr. Marguerite Roza, Research Professor and Director of the Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University. Professor Roza describes the three distinct phases of how American K-12 education has been funded over the last 40 years, and implications for equity and overall student achievement.

Massachusetts Should Disclose More Information about Its Recent Reduction in the Official Count of Long-term Care Deaths

The public -- particularly in Massachusetts, where COVID-19’s toll on elders has been so great -- has a right to know how many deaths occurred in state-regulated eldercare facilities, and how that compares to the total number of deaths. But the state's new counting standard clouds this information, and should be corrected or at least disclosed.

Preparing For Disaster: Health Readiness Expert’s Performance Review

Hubwonk Host Joe Selvaggi talks with Emergency Preparedness expert Dr. Paul Biddinger about how experts plan for disasters, and what went right and wrong in this pandemic.

Study Warns Massachusetts Tax Proposal Would Deter Investment, Stifling the “Innovation Economy”

A state constitutional amendment promoted by the Massachusetts Teachers Association and the Service Employees International Union adding a 4 percent surtax to all annual income above $1 million could devastate innovative startups dependent on Boston’s financial services industry for funding, ultimately hampering the region’s recovery from the COVID-19 economic recession, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute.

“Be Strong, Saith My Heart” – National Poetry Month – 40 Resources for K-12 Students

In Pioneer’s ongoing series of blogs on curricular resources for parents, families, and teachers during COVID-19, this one focuses on: Celebrating National Poetry Month.

Stanford’s National Humanities Medal Winner Prof. Arnold Rampersad on Langston Hughes & Ralph Ellison

This week on “The Learning Curve," Gerard and Cara talk with Professor Arnold Rampersad, the Sara Hart Kimball Professor Emeritus in Humanities at Stanford University and recipient of the National Humanities Medal for his books including The Life of Langston Hughes and Ralph Ellison: A Biography.

Study Shows the Adverse Effects of Graduated Income Tax Proposal on Small Businesses

The state constitutional amendment promoted by the Massachusetts Teachers Association and the Service Employees International Union to add a 4 percent surtax to all annual income above $1 million will adversely impact a significant number of pass-through businesses, ultimately slowing the Commonwealth’s economic recovery from COVID-19, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute.

COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker

Pioneer is proud to present a new vaccine tracker, the newest tool in our COVID-19 tracking project. Pioneer distilled the vaccination data down to those who are either fully vaccinated or partially vaccinated, by all the demographic categories published by the DPH. Use the new tool below to compare rates among groups, by municipality and by county. We will update the data every week.

The Washington Post’s Jay Mathews on An Optimist’s Guide to American Public Education

This week on “The Learning Curve," Gerard and Cara talk with Jay Mathews, an education columnist for The Washington Post and author of the recent book, An Optimist's Guide to American Public Education. Jay describes the three key trends in K-12 schooling that he views as cause for hope.

Grading Education in a Pandemic: Survey Finds Teachers Pass, Administrations Fail & Students Incomplete

This week on Hubwonk, Joe Selvaggi discusses a recently released survey from Pioneer Institute and Emerson Polling, "Massachusetts Residents’ Perceptions of K-12 Education During the Covid-19 Pandemic," with Emerson's lead analyst, Isabel Holloway, and Pioneer Institute’s Charlie Chieppo.

Poll Finds Mixed Views About Schools’ Pandemic Performance

A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, Massachusetts residents have mixed opinions about how K-12 education has functioned, but they tend to view the performance of individual teachers more favorably than that of institutions like school districts and teachers’ unions, according to a poll of 1,500 residents commissioned by Pioneer Institute.