Recreational hockey players in B.C. are getting mixed messages as to whether they will be able to continue playing during the coronavirus pandemic.
Adult beer leagues and other pick-up games in Metro Vancouver are operating this week as usual, as most ice arenas are run by municipalities, which heed public health orders from the Provincial Health Officer.
B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday that organizers are advised to cancel or postpone public events of 250-plus people. There was no mention of recreational facilities and, most notably, schools are remaining open.
But minor hockey leagues operated by Pacific Coast Amateur Hockey Association cancelled the remainder of their seasons on Thursday. That’s because PCAHA is heeding direction from BC Hockey, which in turn is heeding direction from Hockey Canada.
Hockey Canada stated on its website that, “after much consultation with the Hockey Canada membership, our chief medical officer and public health officials, the Hockey Canada Board of Directors has made the decision to cancel all Hockey Canada-sanctioned activities, including our national championships, until further notice.”
But it is unclear what sort of actual direction the association took from Canadian public health officers.
Henry was mindful Thursday of the need to balance precautions against COVID-19, such as social distancing and hand washing, with the normal demands of day-to-day life.
Hockey Canada and BC Hockey advised PCAHA that its cancellations were “in an abundance of caution.”
As of Friday the City of Vancouver confirmed that sports programming at recreational facilities continue to operate.
Health Canada is advising authorities to undertake increased cleaning precautions in public spaces. Hand sanitizers have been stationed at arenas in Richmond, for instance.
Health Canada also has an assessment guideline for mass gatherings. While rec league hockey is not a mass gathering, one consideration is event activities.
“Activities that could contribute to spread: singing, cheering, close physical contact such as when participating in contact sports, sharing food or beverages, etc.”
Other considerations include demographic risk, event duration and whether events are held indoors.
Hockey Canada and the BC government did not immediately respond to questions but this story will be updated with more information should it be presented.