50K Massachusetts hockey players await word on game appeal

50K Massachusetts hockey players await word on game appeal

BOSTON — The roughly 50,000 youth hockey players in Massachusetts are anxiously awaiting word on whether the state will reconsider its “higher-risk” designation and allow them to start playing competitive games.

As part of the state’s COVID-19 reopening plan, Gov. Charlie Baker’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs developed guidelines for youth sports. High-risk sports, including ice hockey, football and wrestling, are not currently allowed to play competitive matches.

Kevin Kavanagh, executive director of the sport’s governing body, Massachusetts Hockey, told Boston 25 News that the organization proposed rule changes to the state on July 7 in hopes of receiving a reclassification to “moderate risk.” Among other changes, body checking would be removed from all levels of youth ice hockey, putting it in line with soccer and non-contact lacrosse, both of which received the “moderate risk” designation recently, he said.

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“We feel comfortable that we’ve presented to the state a valid and safe option for our players to be considered just like many of the other youth sports that are already taking place in a competition model,” Kavanagh said. “[T]he biggest challenge right now, I think, for our membership and hockey players statewide is: Why can certain sports play and other ones can’t?”

In its July 7 proposal and in conversations since, Massachusetts Hockey president Bob Joyce said the group presented scientific data regarding the time youth hockey players spend in close proximity to one another, as well as data on the air quality inside ice rinks.

“Hockey rinks are subject to different guidelines as far as indoor air quality,” Joyce contended. “They’re actually held to a higher standard of two-and-a-half times the normal indoor air quality standards.”

A spokesperson for the governor’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs told Boston 25 News that the state considers both public health data and stakeholder input when making its decisions. The spokesperson did not answer specific questions about whether the state is considering Massachusetts Hockey’s proposal or when a decision might be made.

“The state has been helpful in allowing us to have a seat at the table, which has been great,” Kavanagh said. “But as we as we edge closer to the start of the season in early September, we’re starting to get a little nervous about what we’re actually going to hear and when we’re going to hear it.”

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