Young athletes previously banned from group practice can return under modified COVID-19 health order
New definitions allow athletes between 18 and 22 to get back to practising in small groups
Changes to the provincial health order mean athletes between the ages of 18 and 22 can get back to practising together in small groups, but spectators and games are still suspended.
Previous public health order restrictions made earlier this month defined youth athletes as anyone 18 and younger. Those athletes were able to continue practising as long as COVID-19 safety protocols were followed, while anyone older than 18 was banned from both indoor and outdoor sports.
On Dec. 24 modifications were made to the public health order allowing all athletes under the age of 22 to participate in modified training activities under COVID-19 safety protocols.
"When the order came ... that split our team up the middle ... and there was a lot of disappointment," Pacific Junior Hockey League commissioner, Trevor Alto said.
The league consists of players between the ages of 16 and 20, which meant that under the previous health order, players 19 and older were forced to stay off the ice.
Alto said some players live together and the older ones were feeling frustrated as some of their younger teammates were allowed to continue practising.
"Some of our 19 and 20 year olds haven't been on the ice since November," Alto said.
The new policy, which is posted on the ViaSport website, will remain in place until at least Jan. 8.
"It was a big breath of fresh air," Alto said. "I think it's an excellent step ... and this allows us to be in a position to move forward."
Safety protocols still in place
The modified public health order has also changed the term "adult team sport" to "group sport." It is also limited to two people indoors — for activities like singles tennis and coached training sessions — but up to four people are allowed to practise together outdoors.
"For example, individuals should not be playing a sport with four people and then switching teams to another group of four during the same time slot," ViaSport stated.
Participants still need to remain three metres apart from one another while participating in the sport and athletes are still prohibited from carpooling with their teammates or other players.
Under the new order, athletes are also permitted to travel to their home club, which is defined as the sport organization, club or facility where an athlete is registered for the sport.
"It's been a long time waiting," Alto added. "I think we just need to sit tight and follow the instructions from the health professionals in the province and trust they have our best interests in mind."
According to ViaSport, intercollegiate varsity sport and high performance athletes — who are identified to a targeted athlete list with the Canadian Sport Institute Pacific by their respective provincial or national sport organization — are exempt.