Toronto minor hockey organizations withdraw from season, citing risk and responsibility of COVID-19

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Less than a month after the Greater Toronto Hockey League rolled out its game plan to return to the ice, two local organizations decided to pull out of the season due to the expected second wave of the coronavirus.

So far, the East York Hockey Association and the Amesbury Bert Robinson Minor Hockey League have canceled all of their 2020-2021 seasons and schedules.

“After hours of discussion, consultation and reflection, this difficult decision has been made,” the East York association said in a letter to the players and their parents.

“The goal of our league has always been to provide children in our community with a fun, healthy and safe hockey environment. At this time, especially with the increased number of COVID cases and an anticipated second wave, we cannot predict how this can be achieved at the rink.

Amesbury posted an almost identical letter on its website.

“With a lower enrollment expected due to COVID and the limited number of players allowed on the ice, costs would be around 30% to 50% higher than in normal years,” the club’s board said.

“The settings set so that parents cannot watch or even enter the rink” – for players 13 and older – “were also of concern.

With over 40,000 players in more than 50 associations and 32 house leagues, the GTHL is the largest minor hockey organization in the world.

News of the cancellations by these two groups came on the heels of Ontario reporting 700 new cases on Monday, a new one-day record for the province.

Although the number of new confirmed cases fell to 554 on Tuesday, experts expect more days with more than 500 new cases as more people get tested and many continue to ignore public health guidelines.

In early September, the GTHL unveiled a “back-to-hockey plan” that all participants must adhere to, anticipating that games could return to normal by December or January. The plan outlined timelines, protocols and procedures for the 2020-2021 season, with expert advice from pediatric infectious disease specialists at the Hospital for Sick Children as well as Toronto Public Health.

“The framework aims to give GTHL players the opportunity to return to the ice in a safe, fun and secure environment while minimizing the risk of infection,” said GTHL at the time.

A paper-based team selection process was developed to avoid in-person trials and registration began on September 7. The teams were scheduled to take to the ice next Wednesday for small scrums and team practices, with regular league competition starting on December 7. 1.

“This plan was created during a time when daily cases (COVID-19) were much lower than they are now,” said the East York League, also known as “the home of the Little Stanley Cup. “.

“Given that the number of cases has increased over the last few weeks and we may be facing a different kind of lockdown, we believe the GTHL plan may not be realistic for the House League. . “

The nonprofit said it was run entirely by volunteers and the group simply did not have the people needed to comply with government or GTHL security protocols in “an increasingly growing environment. more contentious ”in terms of liability.

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East York officials have said registration refunds will be issued in the coming days.

Neither East York nor Amesbury responded to the Star’s requests for comment.

Nicholas Keung is a Toronto reporter who covers immigration for The Star. Follow him on Twitter: @nkeung



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