State government moved to shut down youth hockey play statewide for two weeks last Friday, Oct. 23, citing that a cluster of outbreaks have cropped up at rinks in various parts of the state – though none of those clusters seemed to be associated with the Charlestown rink or those near it.
Incidentally, figure skating operations were also shut down along with youth hockey. The shut-down did not extend to professional or college-level hockey programs, though.
Many had been on edge in the youth hockey ranks due to the fact that a number of rinks – particularly those in the suburbs – and some elite Club hockey teams were finding it hard to enforce COVID-19 rules. Other states had already shut down youth hockey, such as Connecticut, but Massachusetts held out hope. That was dashed last Thursday when a letter from Department of Public Health Acting Commissioner Margret Cooke pulled the plug on all youth hockey statewide.
“As of October 21, 2020, the Department has reported 142,941 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 9,559 deaths among confirmed cases in the Commonwealth,” she wrote. “There have been at least 30 clusters of COVID-19 associated with organized ice hockey activities in the Commonwealth. Each of these clusters has two or more confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases, totaling 108 confirmed cases and more than 225 exposed contacts. There is at least one hockey-associated case of COVID-19 in at least 66 cities and towns in the Commonwealth.
“Accordingly…to assure the maintenance of the public health during the continuing public health emergency, I issue the following order,” it continued. “Indoor ice rinks, and indoor ice skating and hockey facilities may not host games, practices, or any other on-ice hockey or skating activities for the period beginning 5:00 p.m. on October 23, 2020 and ending at 12:01 am. on November 7, 2020.”
Cooke also cited that there have been clusters of COVID associated with youth hockey in other states too. In Tampa Bay in June, people attended a youth hockey game, and 13 tested positive for COVID afterward. New Hampshire also recently paused youth hockey when they experienced 158 cases among 23 different teams.
The Charlestown Youth Hockey Association (CYHA) Board issued a letter announcing the news last Friday.
“We are disappointed to share the news that the Governor has suspended indoor hockey activities in Massachusetts for at least two weeks due to an increase in COVID-19 cases,” read the letter. “Beginning (Friday), all Charlestown Youth Hockey teams and programs cannot play games or practice in a rink until the suspension is rescinded.”
The rink in Charlestown had experienced no cases since opening earlier this month, and the CYHA has had no issues to speak of since beginning play in late September. The CYHA and the rink have a very strict policy of players, coaches and observers wearing masks at all times – even when playing on ice. There are also protocols for entering and exiting the rink, and locker rooms have been closed since the rink opened.
The suspension could be lifted earlier by Gov. Charlie Baker, but at the same time, it could be extended by the governor as well.
“We fully expect hockey to return this season and are hopeful that the suspension is rescinded on November 7 and our players can get back to playing the sport they love,” read the letter from the CYHA Board.
There are more than 250 players in CYHA this year on numerous boys, girls, and co-ed teams.