Hockey is a wonderful sport. It combines grace with power, skill with determination and reflexes with grit. It teaches our young athletes teamwork and leadership, while improving their fitness and work ethic.
In the age of the Covid-19 pandemic, though, indoor ice hockey has also reportedly caused multiple clusters and outbreaks across the Northeast, causing Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont to partially or fully close ice rinks and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to publish a study noting ice hockey games could be “superspreader” events.
This conflicts with USA Hockey’s chief medical and safety officer, whose guidance suggests routine hygiene practices would make a return to ice hockey safe. Added to the mix is New York State guidance that athletes in sports deemed to be high risk of Covid-19 transmission should only participate in individual and group practice and should not participate in games or travel for competitions.
As a parent, coach or organizer, this conflicting information is not helpful in guiding you on how to decide about the right thing to do for your child, your team or your organization.
While many indoor sports may increase the risk of developing clusters or outbreaks of infection, there are particular aspects of indoor ice hockey likely to increase the risk. These include persistent long periods of exposure to potentially infected individuals, heavy breathing with high exertion in close proximity and a notable history of ventilation issues with ice rink venues (which is documented by the Environmental Protection Agency and multiple medical studies).