Mandatory masks on the ice doesn’t sit well with hockey parents

WINNIPEG — A recent update to Hockey Manitoba’s return to play requires players to don masks on the ice, and the change isn’t sitting well with parents.

Hockey has been on hold in Manitoba for most of the year, with COVID-19 restrictions preventing any kind of meaningful play.

The impact has been felt by many parents with kids in the sport, including Shawna Crane and her three sons.

“I think we had three weeks of hockey, maybe six times on the ice before they cancelled it,” said Crane. “It’s been a long five months so the prospect of going back was extremely exciting.”

On Friday, the province loosened restrictions around indoor and outdoor sports, including hockey.

The same day, Hockey Manitoba released an urgent update saying masks would be mandatory for players and coaches on and off the ice.

Crane said the mask rule came as a shock.

“I think it’s a little outrageous to expect kids to wear masks while exerting themselves,” she said.

Peter Woods, the executive director of Hockey Manitoba, said Sport Manitoba passed down the mask rule to them on Friday afternoon. He doesn’t believe kids at this level should be mandated to wear masks.

“We’ll certainly abide by those (restrictions) and that’s all we can do,” said Woods. “Hopefully, our members and ourselves can express our concerns, and we can come to a more reasonable understanding of how we can introduce the sport.”

Interim CEO for Sport Manitoba, Janet McMahon, said when the public health orders came out, they were under the impression that masks were not required in sports, but they reached out to public health for clarification.

“We got a response from Public Health indicating that masks were required for all sports and indoor activity, so Friday we sent out an urgent message,” she said.

McMahon said a mask is required for all indoor sporting activities, with the exception of swimming.

She said Public Health is who determines what the health guidelines should be, Sport Manitoba’s role is to relay that information to the community.

Crane believes mandatory masks on the ice needs to go.

“(Kids) have to wear masks to school. They have to wear masks on the bus,” she said. “It’s a part of life right now, and we totally understand that, but there’s got to be one or two things they can do without it.” 

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