Proof of COVID-19 vaccinations required before players can play, spectators can watch
York-Simcoe hockey groups forced to change on fly as policy shifts
Sept. 30, 2021
Sorry, no entry into the hockey rink -- or, for that matter, any other facility where sport activities, such as swimming, skating, soccer or court sports, are taking place.
Increasingly, municipalities and the province are beefing up and fast-tracking their requirements for proof of vaccines among anyone eligible to receive them. The upgraded provincial government policy will take effect as of 12:01 a.m. on Oct. 1.
Youths younger than 12 are exempt, as they are not yet eligible for vaccination against COVID-19.
Although delayed from the usual start dates due to COVID-19 fallout, the return-to-play is highly anticipated since youth sports have been disrupted since March 2020.
However, prior to the provincial government’s announcement to move to an Oct. 1 deadline, minor hockey organizations were working toward a deadline of Oct. 31. Some players chosen during September tryouts and team officials not yet fully vaccinated will be impacted by the new deadline.
In the York Simcoe Minor Hockey League, which oversees competitive and house league programs for 13 municipalities and is governed by the Ontario Minor Hockey Association, games start Oct. 12.
The OMHA mandate, initially announced Sept. 3 and reaffirmed Sept. 20, followed the full vaccination lead of other organizations. The Greater Toronto Hockey League and Ontario Women’s Hockey Association are among those that earlier declared full vaccination policies.
They are moot points now in the aftermath of the government’s latest position.
"They all had a chance to roll back their policies and did not," YSMHL president Eric Kopsala said before the latest rollback. "Most municipalities in York Region support the province’s rules, but a couple are more stringent. The bottom line is that everyone in the arena involved in a hockey game has to be double vaccinated.
"Dealing with every single association, I’ve heard no material blowback."
Individual teams were required to produce an updated roster Oct. 31 to indicate vaccination status for all players and team officials. Now, it is yet to be determined if the urgency for that condition of eligibility has been changed.
Whether it is coincidental or not, hockey registration numbers continue to spiral downward.
Kopsala is reluctant to blame vaccination policies or COVID-19 directly for significant downward trends that existed pre-pandemic.
"The numbers are down substantially across all associations," Kopsala said. "I think maybe people are worried now about overscheduling their kids and have found they don’t need to be out every night of the week."
A past president of the East Gwillimbury Minor Hockey Association, Kopsala advised parents to consult a visitors’ guide available on the YSMHL website (ysmhl.net) detailing guidelines for all arenas in its jurisdiction.The task of monitoring visitors to recreation facilities will fall upon municipalities.