Canada, like the United States and many other areas of the world is now seeing what scientists are calling an “expected fourth wave” of COVID. Cases are rising for numbers of infections, yet, those infections are not causing a noticeable rise in deaths.
Deaths in my opinion are really the number people should be counting when the majority of people are now vaccinated. But, cases are definitely on the rise, and a new back to school plan provided by Ontario is likely a sign of things to come for a return to hockey.
Students and teachers will be required to wear masks in the classroom from 1st grade and up. While assemblies and other groups sports will begin, there is one caveat to the rules that is already being talked about.
Only those sports that require “light physical contact” will be allowed to be mask free participation. While there is no specific language referencing ice hockey or American football, schools are requesting that specific language now.
Lets keep in mind as well that there have been no reports of approved return to play plans in any Province of Canada. Yes, leagues have released schedules, but no, none that I am aware of have permission to play, and no approvals have been given.
While they may yet be given approvals, the official return to school plans in Ontario are giving everyone a clue of the conservative approach that all provinces will likely take with school and contact sports including hockey.
Athletes are taking note of these new rules as well. Calls are now being made seeking places to play outside of Canada once again. Players once again are afraid that their season could be cut short, cancelled or that they may be forced to wear masks while trying to compete.
I personally don’t know where any “expert” got the opinion that competing in a high intensity environment with a mask on does not inhibit performance. I think those “experts” have not seen the inside of a gym or competed in any sport for decades.
With it now being August, and seasons starting within 30 to 60 days, Canada still doesn’t have a publicly released plan. The Provinces do not have publicly released plans. After 18 months still there is no clear path to a return to normal.
Players like last year are already beginning to look south of the border and to Europe for different opportunity. While Canada remains rigid, the United States and Europe leagues, most of them, already have plans and protocols in place for return to play.
If you don’t have a backup plan now, you better get one. Rosters in the United States are filling fast, and Europe is beginning pre season games now.
Or, you can do like so many did last year. You can believe the coaches who are saying everything is going to be “alright” and “be patient”. How did that work out last year? How did it work out for the hundreds of 20 year olds who lost their final season of junior hockey by being patient?
Junior hockey is a team game. At this point though, the only team players should be concerned with is the one that will actually allow them to be on the ice competing normally this season. If you don’t have that team now, you better get one.
Joseph Kolodziej – Adviser