Saskatoon

Sask. hockey parents petition province to let their children play games

The province suspended all team sports and group activities in November, allowing only players 18 and under to practise in groups of eight or fewer.

Parents say risk of playing games is no greater than going to school

The province has said there will likely be no hockey games until the end of March. (Submitted by Kim Kearns)

A petition with thousands of signatures from parents asking for hockey games to be allowed again in Saskatchewan has been delivered to Premier Scott Moe.

"We are calling on Premier Scott Moe to facilitate a return to hockey in February," reads a part of the online petition, which was originally started on the website change.org several months ago. It was just shy of 10,000 signatures as of Thursday afternoon, after gathering hundreds of signatures in recent days.

The petition says hockey provides physical, mental and social health benefits to youth, along with economic benefits to communities.

Tyson Almasi has two boys, aged 11 and eight, playing hockey in Saskatoon.

He said he would sign that petition.

"I'm one of those parents, I love sport, I love organized sport, I love what it does for my kids," he said.

In an update last week, the Saskatchewan Hockey Association told its members they shouldn't expect to play any games until at least the end of March.

Under the province's latest sports rules, announced in November to curb the spread of COVID-19, team sports and group activities are suspended. Athletes 18 years old and under can keep practising in groups of eight or fewer, if they use masks and practise physical distancing, but organized games aren't allowed.

Prior to that, sports and recreational activities were allowed under the province's reopening strategy, with guidelines intended to ensure participants were kept safe.

Almasi says the rules and regulations set up in the fall were working because they made everyone accountable to each other.

"If one kid is showing a symptom, that whole team would be on precautionary [and not allowed to practise]."

That meant coaches, parents and kids had to rely on each other to stay safe.

Almasi said he believes hockey makes headlines because its contact tracing is good and officials report positive cases, but he said the cause of most people's COVID-19 infection is unknown.

Provincial data on sources of COVID-19 exposure has shown a large number of cases have a "pending" or "unknown" source.

Premier Moe alluded to the petition during a news conference earlier this week, saying he gets feedback from many people asking him to allow children to play games.

"I hear about that from my nephews when I go home," Moe said.

"I talked [Monday] night to a parent that was speaking quite passionately to the challenges that he sees, not only from a physical perspective with his child that isn't able to compete this year, but the mental health challenges that him and his friends and his teammates are going through as well."

Krista Broda's two sons both play hockey in Regina. (Submitted by Krista Broda)

Regina parent Krista Broda wants to see games return for her boys, aged five and seven.

"It's hard to watch them not have something to look forward to," Broda said. "They love hockey … they just live and breathe it. We've been going to the outdoor rinks a lot, but it's just not really the same as the team mentality."

Broda would like to see youth and adults separated when it comes to deciding when games will be allowed.

"You have senior hockey players sitting in a dressing room after the game, having a drink," she said. "The kids are coming dressed to the rink and leaving dressed. So I think that makes a huge difference."

Risk from hockey low, parents say

Both Broda and Almasi said the risk from playing hockey is as low as going to school or to a bar, which have remained open.

"I take my son to practice. They come dressed, they all wear masks on the ice. They do everything that they're asked to do," Broda said. "And they're being punished because some people go to a dance party at a bar," she said, referring to video that surfaced recently of people dancing, some without masks, at The Tap Brewhouse in Regina.

"I guess I feel like the risk is so low and it needs to be considered that they should be allowed to play."

Both parents said they're not calling for hockey to go back to "normal" right now.

"When we say play a hockey game, it's not team camaraderie in a dressing room where you're listening to music and singing," Almasi said.

"If it means dressing in a car or walking into a rink, not even sitting on the bench.… parents understand. If we only needed one ref — anything to modify it so it closely resembles a game of hockey to the kids," he said.

"I don't need to watch another hockey game. I just want my kids and other kids to just not write off another year."

No games will be played in the foreseeable future at Saskatchewan hockey rinks. (Shooter Bob Squar/Shutterstock)

Broda said Hockey Regina has been doing a great job and she feels confident sending her kids to play hockey again with restrictions in place.

"[Hockey Regina] did everything they could and I felt safe. I mean, I'm extremely cautious and I felt safe sending my kids to play," Broda said.

"I think that in the end it would make for happier kids and happier parents. And I just think it would be better for everybody."

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