The State of Massachusetts closed ice arenas for two weeks, New Hampshire arenas are closed until October 30th, and reports of player infections are on the rise throughout the United States and Canada.
Its only October.
We have not reached the height of this “second wave” yet according to the experts. Some experts are now saying we can expect rising numbers to continue for the next three to five months. Its a pretty gloomy picture for those who are in major risk groups.
That said, after spending many hours this week talking to people, it is becoming more and more apparent that athletes in general are at a very low risk of serious complications if they become infected. Unless there is an unknown underlying medical condition, athletes are actually best equipped to fight off any infection.
As evidence grows from the NFL, Major Junior and other sports programs, it would look as though management of infected players can be done quite effectively.
Evidence also shows that regular testing and an isolation plan must also be in place for effective management of potential infections.
Schedule flexibility is also critical as shown by the QMJHL now having a third team shut down due to positive tests.
Nearly every league playing, or “training” has already had instances of positive tests. This confirms the most important thing we can understand about this pandemic. Everyone will eventually get COVID-19.
Managing this infection takes a plan, and it takes money. This is where the problem with return to play plans are exposed. Most teams simply don’t have the money to effectively manage the virus.
While evidence continues to grow that athletes should be allowed to compete, it also continues to grow that asymptomatic people can infect vulnerable people at risk of serious complications.
There does not appear to be any answer other than isolation for the entire season for athletes to compete. That isolation though may not have to be complete isolation.
No fans in buildings, no billet families, and limited interaction with family members looks to be the path of least resistance to get all teams back on the ice.
That is a simple, yet pretty expensive plan for leagues, parents and players to embrace. Combined with regular testing and its pretty likely everyone gets back on the ice pretty soon.
Team owners like everyone else have limited budgets. So someone has to pay, and the only logical choice is the parents and players. Pay to play models are being enacted nearly across the board now and parents have no problem paying for it in nearly every case.
Simple plans for complex problems can sometimes be the best way forward. Teams who have already embraced some form of this plan are playing without problems for the most part. Teams that have not will continue to have problems.
As we look toward November and December when infection rates should really take off, its better to be prepared now for what may happen than to wait and react to what happens.
Joseph Kolodziej – Adviser