Youth hockey teams broke COVID-19 rules by travelling to Manitoba for tournament
WINNIPEG -- Some youth hockey teams from Saskatchewan are facing criticism for attending a tournament in Manitoba earlier this month.
COVID-19 rules in Saskatchewan don’t allow out-of-province travel for competitions. Yet, some teams from Saskatchewan travelled to Winnipeg to take part in the tournament which included games at Bell MTS Iceplex.
“So disturbing that when we have seen the sacrifice of so many in this province that we see someone unwilling to sacrifice a hockey tournament one weekend out of province,” Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said Wednesday.
The North American Hockey Classic was held in the city on July 16 to 19.
It featured teams from around Manitoba and also a few from outside provincial borders.
The head of the Saskatchewan Hockey Association said a total of five teams from two other organizations travelled to Winnipeg, teams which are made up of players from across the province.
While the event doesn’t fall under its purview, SHA general manager Kelly McClintock said prior to the tournament he made contact with the Saskatchewan Wheatland Wild and urged the organization not to go.
A portion of Re-Open Saskatchewan, the government’s latest COVID-19 document, states:
“Tournaments and interprovincial competition are not permitted.“
“It’s not like it’s not widely known,” said McClintock. “So it was really disappointing on the Friday when I heard that program (the Wheatland Wild) did take four of their teams.”
McClintock said he wasn’t able to make contact with the other organization — the Parkland Junior Maulers based out of Yorkton which took one of its teams.
The Maulers released a statement Wednesday saying it received information from health officials the rules only applied to tournaments being held within Saskatchewan.
“The coaching staff and management, in coordination with the parent group, made the decision to attend the tournament after reviewing communications from the Province of Saskatchewan, speaking to the Province of Manitoba about their guidelines and reviewing [preventative] measures put in place by the NAHC (North American Hockey Classic) and the arenas to keep the players and families safe,” reads the Maulers statement.
After getting information from Saskatchewan health officials the night before the start of the tournament, the Regina Junior Pats pulled out of the Manitoba tournament.
“As tough a decision as it is, because you know you’re going to disappoint kids and parents have plans, it was not a difficult decision,” said Regina Pats chief operating officer Stacey Cattell. “COVID is very fluid, so rules change and things change on a daily and a weekly basis.”
“Our kids stayed home and they practiced and they’re still getting lots of ice time. That’s what this year’s all about. We have to modify and follow the rules so that we can eventually have a completely reopened society, economy...people can go to tournaments.”
In a statement, the North American Hockey Classic said arenas in Manitoba have been open for some time and that it fully supports the health and safety protocols implemented by the Manitoba government.
“The facilities the tournament were hosted at were very thorough in providing the details of their approved protocols,” a portion of the statement reads. “The North American Hockey Classic fully embraced and supported each of the facility guidelines during the tournament.”
But the fact some teams from Saskatchewan attended isn’t sitting well with Manitoba’s premier.
“Skirting the rules of Saskatchewan, disobeying the conduct rules in our province is not acceptable and so we’re very disappointed in the choices that were made there and wouldn’t want to see a repeat of that type of thing,” said Pallister.
While Manitoba places no restrictions on travellers from Saskatchewan, a provincial spokesperson said competitions with multiple teams can represent an increased risk of COVID-19 transmission.
“While not a violation of orders, Manitoba public health does not recommend tournaments at this time,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said public health officials received an anonymous complaint about a hockey tournament taking place in Winnipeg in mid-July. However, according to the spokesperson, the investigation was closed because no further details about the tournament were provided and couldn’t be found.
Public health officials in Saskatchewan said Wednesday there’ll be a follow-up investigation into the matter.
CTV News has so far been unable to reach the Saskatchewan Wheatland Wild for comment. The Parkland Junior Maulers said its teams will not be attending any tournaments in the near future.