Sudbury Minor Hockey Association welcomes new vaccination rules
Northern Ontario's 7 public health units announced stricter vaccination rules this week for indoor sports
Sports leagues in northern Ontario are preparing to implement new vaccine rules affecting coaches, officials and other volunteers.
This week, northern Ontario's seven public health units jointly announced new COVID-19 vaccination requirements that go beyond those implemented by the province.
Under Ontario's regulations, spectators at indoor sports facilities are required to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination. But the province's rules do not apply to volunteers, or players under 18 who are entering the facility to play an organized sport.
The new rules for northern Ontario mean those who are coaching, officiating, or volunteering for an indoor sport will need to show proof of vaccination. Players under 18 will continue to be exempt.
"We welcome this," said Tannys Laughren, a board member with the Sudbury Minor Hockey Association and the association's COVID-19 representative.
"At the end of the day, our responsibility as a board and as an association are to keep our kids safe, and it's just one more layer of safety that's been added for the hockey season."
'We need to keep our kids safe'
Laughren said Sudbury Minor Hockey has already been "strongly encouraging" all players to get vaccinated. She said on a personal level, she would support requiring proof of vaccination for players 12 and up as well. But she said the association is following the rules set out by health units, the municipality, and the Northern Ontario Hockey Association.
Laughren said she expects parents will support the new requirements. While she said there was a lot of excitement to have kids back on the ice, there was also "a lot of trepidation."
"Our parents want their kids safe obviously, even more than we do. And so a lot of parents did question why we weren't requiring a vaccine. But we, you know we just explained it to them … I do think the parents are going to welcome this extra step," Laughren said.
Soon after the health units made the announcement this week, Laughren said the association sent out an email to coaches and volunteers outlining the new requirement, and soon received "email after email after email with proof."
While she believes vaccination uptake is already high, she does expect, based on overall statistics, that the league will lose a few volunteers because of the new rules.
"Which is unfortunate because I mean our coaches and you know trainers and assistant coaches and managers are all volunteers. So they're doing us a really big favour by being part of our teams, but at the same time … you know we need to keep our kids safe."
Scorekeeper Randy Pascal works with a number of teams and leagues, including Sudbury Minor Hockey. He said he understands the rationale behind the new rules.
"It's something that I think most of us saw coming," Pascal said.
Pascal said his hope "is that it kind of moves those people over that may be sitting on the fence a little bit to either be prone to take the action to getting the vaccine, or at the very least take the time to really do the research and answer their questions that they might have concerns about."