Both the Meridian Credit Union and Centennial Arenas went dark Saturday morning for Niagara-on-the-Lake Minor Hockey Association, with all games and practices cancelled until Jan. 3.
A telephone vote was held Friday evening following a few positive test results from some local players. The timing of the virtual meeting also coincided with the province’s announcement of new COVID-19 restrictions.
Club vice-president Peter Flynn says the vote was unanimous, 13-0, to stay off the ice until after New Year’s Eve.
“Most teams only had one game left before Christmas,” Flynn says. “COVID had hit the young teams, the unvaccinated kids. We had one kid test positive from the U11 BB team. But the day he tested positive, there were four kids from the AE team playing with them, so that affected two teams.”
As well, Flynn says the father of the child who tested positive is also the coach of the peewee BB team, while his other two sons play on two teams from the older age groups. Then, one of the U8 coaches tested positive as well.
“Niagara Health told the father that his family and everyone who was in the dressing room had to get tested and then quarantine for 10 days, and anyone with secondary contact had to watch for symptoms. Then another kid from the U8 Local League team tested positive, too.”
With so many interactions spread amongst a number of age groups, the board met Friday and decided to shut things down over a time period that would accommodate the 10-day quarantine edict.
“We felt bad that people were going to miss their holidays,” Flynn adds. “If they’re locked up in quarantine, you can’t even do whatever you were going to do with your family members. We figured, seven days before Christmas it’s better to just pause it until Jan. 3.”
By Sunday, Flynn had received communication from the Ontario Minor Hockey Association that the Port Colborne and Glancaster clubs, both of whom play against NOTL teams, had also paused their schedule for the holidays.
Flynn says two NOTL teams are scheduled to play in tournaments out of town on Dec. 27 and 28. The atom BB team is entered in a St. Catharines tournament, while the midget Local League team is expected for a Niagara Falls event. The timing is such that the quarantine period would be over, allowing the teams to participate.
“The day they are done they would be able to go to the tournament,” explains Flynn. “I talked to both hosts and they said they will still take the teams for the tournament. I suggested maybe that they do rapid tests. If the tournaments are still a go, both coaches will email the parents and see what they want to do. If they want to go, then we will allow them to go.”
With vaccinations only recently available for children aged five to 11 years old, many of the children playing in the NOTL minor hockey system are still in the process of getting their first shots. That potentially leaves some of the unvaccinated players at risk in the close setting of a dressing room.
“We’ve been on top of things with minor hockey,” Flynn says. “Basically, we just shut it down so people won’t be missing the holidays. We don’t want to be responsible for people missing Christmas.”