Months ago I wrote about how I predicted billeting players would be the weak link in all of Junior Hockey being able to return to play safely and with limited or no infections.
More than one month into many league seasons, this is exactly what has come to pass around the world.
Speaking with team owners, general managers, coaches, and players who have actually been infected with Coronavirus/COVID there is only one common denominator.
Contact with people outside of the hockey team is the only thing that these infections have in common.
Billet families who have people working in environments with COVID exposure, schools, anti mask wearers, and those people who refuse to social distance are the common reasons for infections.
Once infected players go to the rink, they expose their team mates. Its simple, if players aren’t exposed outside of the rink, they cant expose people inside the rink.
This is definitely happening at every level. The QMJHL, USHL, NAHL, NCDC, OJHL, CCHL, USPHL, EHL and NA3HL have all had this happen to them in North America. It is also the common denominator for the same infection problems in Europe.
There is now only one choice for teams to battle this common factor in the infection rates. Eliminate billeting and create a team housing environment. This one step alone will greatly reduce the potential for infections.
Taking it further, require masks in all public places, including gyms, and require hand sanitizer to be used regularly.
These are just very basic, tedious, and a little bit of inconvenient habits that will allow teams to experience less infections.
It doesn’t matter what side of the political argument you are on. The fact is seasons are being disrupted and players are getting infected. So lets all just do the simple things and reduce the potential for this to continue.
Two months into our season in Poland, using these simple, yet more costly and inconvenient practices has allowed us to have a safe season thus far. While other teams do not or can not control those environments and experience infections around the world, these steps are proven to work.
Players need to buy in to the program. Parents need to put their political views aside. This is not a guaranteed system, but it has worked, it keeps everyone on the ice, and that, regardless of political views, is something we all want.
Joseph Kolodziej – Adviser