The giant hurdle – COVID-19 and hockey
December 22, 2021
During the week before the holiday break, typically one of the best times of the year, COVID-19 cases have begun to suddenly skyrocket. Due to the new variant of COVID-19, Omicron, many sports leagues and facilities have had to reconsider their restrictions and availability for their athletes.
The NHL is in the midst of a similar extreme inflation in cases, especially amongst athletes. In the last few days, they have paused all games from today, Wednesday, December 22nd, to Sunday, December 26th. The league is hoping to resume on the 27th of December, however, with many star players in COVID-19 protocol, it is uncertain if games will even be able to happen.
The NHL has even withdrawn from the Olympics officially. This means no NHL player will be sent with their respective country to play hockey in Beijing this year, crushing the dreams of many fans and players hoping to see the new mixing of athletes. Although, it is worth noting that due to quarantine restrictions and the rise of positive cases, many notable players were extremely tentative about going.
I speak for a lot of us when I say that hockey is what keeps us moving and taking all that away, just kinda kills all of your energy”
— Jacob Gibbons
However in smaller leagues too, COVID-19 has severely affected the players. The GTHL, the Greater Toronto Hockey League, decided on December 18th that all competitive games until the 23rd are to be postponed. Additionally, after that they are to have their typical mid-season break from the 24th to January 1st, preventing games for an extended period of time.
The decision was officially made after the change in isolation requirements from Toronto Public Health. Due to the highly contagious Omicron, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Toronto Public Health have changed isolation specifications to now include anyone who has come into close contact with a positive case, regardless of vaccination status. These individuals must now isolate for at least ten days.
Regarding the difficult pause on games, Jacob Gibbons, the goalie for the U16 AAA Markham Majors, says, “As bad as cases are getting, it’s still very frustrating to go through all of this again. I speak for a lot of us when I say that hockey is what keeps us moving and taking all that away, just kinda kills all of your energy.”
However, the players have been finding ways to view the limited positive aspects to the negative change, “We [the team] are still practicing so we still get together, but if this goes on for a long period of time you can lose your game sense.”
Gibbons also speaks on what he might do in his free time, without the high pressure of demanding competitive games. “Staying on top of dieting and working out to stay as game-ready as possible, but also spending a lot of time with family and friends. Especially now being the holidays.”
Not only is COVID-19 affecting professional players, but it is also having a huge impact on local players. As they try to stay safe and continue to hope, it has been another huge blow for the hockey community.