Charlestown Youth Hockey Looks to Start Later This Month With Many Precautions

Charlestown Youth Hockey Association (CYHA) plans to start the hockey season later this month with practices, but board members said not to expect the usual stalwarts of the long hockey season – like Edie’s Snack Shack, parents visiting in the front lobby, playing games without masks or high-fiving on the bench.

What will happen is hockey, which in COVID-19 times, is a victory in itself.

Board members John Sutich and Mike Frawley said they plan to start the season a little late this year for boys on Sept. 26, and for girls right after Oct. 1. It is an adventure, like Little League and Girls Softball this summer, in what will work and how it will work. It is also a very personal decision for parents and kids, and there will be a number of options available both said – but so far numbers are showing that even if people opt out, it won’t be to the detriment of those who would like to try to play.

“We don’t seem to have a lot of attrition, but we won’t know for sure until games start,” said Board member Mike Frawley. “So far it seems a lot of people are going to play. However, we want our members to know we’re following the protocols and it’s their call entirely. Everyone has a different feeling and experience. It’s a personal choice and that will be respected.”

The rink at this point, is on track to open in mid- to late-September, the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) has told the board, and youth hockey games were only approved by Gov. Charlie Baker to start on Aug. 17. Sutich said with that in mind, they feel like starting a few weeks later than normal for the CYHA is perfectly acceptable.

“We’re trying to buy ourselves some time and not start as we normally would,” he said. “We’re confident they’ll be able to set up the rink safely with pathways and social distancing…The good thing about the health of CYHA is that if some people feel this season is not for them, it’s not going to affect the ability of the Association to field a team or cost other kids that want to play an opportunity. We have a lot of hours of ice time, but we’re also going to have fewer skaters on the ice in those hours.”

Last year, the season ended with an abrupt thud. Some of the state championship teams weren’t able to play out their seasons in March as they were cancelled for COVID-19 reasons. Likewise, a good deal of the tryouts in March that inform team decisions this year were cancelled, and are being held this week for those that intend to play.

It makes resuming the season this fall a little more exciting for some, but it is with an asterisk for board members as they warn kids and parents that things are going to be different down the rink this year.

First of all, there isn’t going to be much observation of practices and games for adults as there is a one-to-one limit for occupancy in the Charlestown Rink, and some rinks have already banned spectators altogether for practice and games. That will be a marked change as practices and games are a big social time for adults and families who come to watch their youngsters compete on the ice.

“The rules are one-to-one, so if there are 30 kids in the rink, there can be only 30 parents and adults anywhere in the rink,” he said. “If the grandparents and parents want to come watch, they’ll maybe have to choose one to come. Already some rinks have said there will be no spectators. It’s probably going to be like that for practices. It’s going to be a very light rink. There will be a lot of people hanging out in cars or outside nearby…We don’t even expect to have the snack shack up and running anytime soon because we don’t expect any customers really.”

When it comes to hockey, the CYHA doesn’t expect to open its lockerrooms this year, as there is a 50 percent occupancy limit, and the rooms are small already, so they will advise kids to show up dressed to play, only a few minutes early to prevent lingering. Players will likely enter in one door, put on their skates on a bench at one side of the ice, then undress on a bench on the other side – exiting through a different door.

Those at games, including players, will be required to fill out a contract tracing form also – including the person or parent who brought their child to the rink.

There will be no checking at any level, Frawley said, and the referees are instructed to blow the whistle and stop any scrums on the boards. Players are expected to wear a facemask when competing in a faceoff – so basically facemasks will be required on the ice. Likewise, they will probably set up extra bench space so players are six feet apart. At practices, skills practice will likely be much different due to the fact they cannot have as many players on the ice. Traditionally, those practices took place once a week, but Frawley and Sutich said they might have skill practices once every two weeks to be able to spread everyone out.

“It’s going to be very different, but we’re going to plow through it,” said Frawley. “The bottom line is the kids are going to be able to play and get out on the ice.”

And with many schools starting remotely or in a hybrid format, any kind of activity outside the home is a bonus this fall.

Sutich said anyone with any questions should e-mail [email protected] More information about the season can be found at www.cyha.com.

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