As of Nov. 5, anyone wanting to be a spectator at a minor hockey game in Williams Lake will have to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19.
The Williams Lake Minor Hockey Association (WLMHA) made the announcement Monday, Oct. 25, which came on the heels of Hockey Canada’s decision last week to require anyone participating in a Hockey Canada event to be fully vaccinated.
“We’ve looked … and with what Hockey Canada did with their new announcement and just the fact that I’m getting a lot of pressure for more spectators, and it’s just becoming more of the norm and so we are going to move in that direction,” said WLMHA president Mike Rispin. Without a vaccine passport, WLMHA has had to limit spectators to under 50 spectators per rink.
Unlike Hockey Canada’s decision, which applies to “participants, volunteers, and spectators at all activities relating to national or international events and camps, national programs, and attendees at national meetings,” the WLMHA decision does have exceptions.
Parents that are ‘not comfortable with showing their proof of vaccination or don’t have it’, can work with their team managers to be involved as part of the hockey operations, and doing the various volunteer jobs that do not require proof of vaccinations, noted WLMHA in its announcement.
“We are going to try and accommodate everyone using our volunteer positions because they don’t currently need to be vaccinated, so managers are going to be required to work with them and make it work,” said Rispin, who had U15 rep volunteers conduct a trial run with cooperating spectators showing vaccine passports at games Friday night, Oct. 22.
“We’re still going to find ways for people who don’t want to show their passports or can’t show their passports to get them in,” Rispin said. “We’re not trying to exclude anybody but it’s going to make things simpler, smoother.”
The WLMHA noted spectators will be required to show proof of vaccine using the official B.C. government vaccine passport. Those 19 and over will be required to also provide a photo ID that matches their passport. Individuals aged 12 to 18 will only require the passport. Face masks are required for anyone five years and older as required by the Provincial Health Officer.
The association further noted that the individuals tasked with enforcing the vaccine passport requirements are volunteers and there to help facilitate the success of hockey for the children, “there is no tolerance for abuse of these volunteers as we make these changes.”
Hockey Canada’s vaccine mandate rules do not apply to children who are not yet eligible for a vaccine. Those who are eligible must have received two doses of a Health Canada approved vaccine, with the last shot at least 14 days prior. In addition, all vendors and services contracted by Hockey Canada, such hotels, arenas, bus companies, restaurants, must ensure that their staff are fully vaccinated or provide, at their own cost, negative COVID-19 tests.
While players must be vaccinated to take part in official Hockey Canada events, they do not need to be vaccinate to play or practice as part of a minor hockey association or league, such as WLMHA. However, Hockey Canada has updated its guidance and now “strongly recommends,” instead of simply encouraging, all participants to be vaccinated.
“Hockey Canada’s stakeholders, including its Members, Minor Hockey Associations, Leagues and Teams must, at a minimum, follow the advice of their provincial and/or regional public health authority regarding the standards specific to the prevention of COVID-19 which must be met to engage in hockey activities, and which may include vaccinations in some jurisdictions,” the organization stated on its website.
Official Health Canada teams include the national men’s, women’s, juniors and para teams, the national women’s development team and the national men’s and women’s U18 teams.
In Williams Lake, the new rules won’t be enforced in time for the upcoming U18 house tournament Oct. 29 to 31, which means spectators will be limited to under 50 per rink.
– With a file from Kayta Slepian, Black Press Media