Local Journalism Initiative
St. Clair Township has decided to continue enforcement of their no spectator rule at local rinks until at least the next council meeting.
Council heard a presentation from Mooretown Minor Hockey Association’s Geoff Dale on Tuesday. He says parents are opposed to the minor hockey spectator ban.
“Parents have severe concerns about dropping kids off at the rink. Programs start at age four or five, they don’t feel it’s realistic for a kid to be dropped off at a rink and know where to go,” says Dale. “The feedback we’ve received from our membership is… extreme concerns about liability.”
Dale listed concerns such as tying skates, going to the washroom, or potential medical incidents. The association was asking for one parent to be allowed into the rink per child. With 10 kids per team, this would make a total of 20 spectators.
Dale read an email from a parent: “How is it expected that a seven year old in his first year is supposed to know where to go in the arena or to follow all the rules without his parent?
“Are parents just supposed to wait at the backdoor and hope that their kid comes out? I feel that the entire (of arena reopening) is a mess if the parents are not allowed in.”
Dale says if the rules were not loosened the organization may have to look at signing their kids up at rinks outside of St. Clair that allow spectators.
But Director of Community Services Kendall Lindsay says the rule is there for a reason.
“It’s a high volume of people coming to the place right off the hop, and we have to be ready for them. We don’t want to go backwards like other arenas,” says Lindsay.
“We don’t want to open up and then close. We don’t want to have Lambton Health tell us we have to close. And we don’t want to have an outbreak in our facility. Those are the main reasons that we went down the road of no spectators,” says Lindsay.
“If things go the wrong way, everything could be shut down again. All we’re trying to do is protect the kids and the parents and make things as safe for them as possible,” says Deputy Mayor Steve Miller.
The township did budge somewhat and allow for an additional five volunteers to attend each practice of kids 11 and under to help with some of the association’s stated concerns.
Council asked for staff to report back with further recommendations at the next meeting on Sept. 21.
Coordinator of Facilities and Parks Sue Knight says she’d like to see how things go at the arena for a few weeks before allowing spectators.
Knight also pointed out that ice time for younger kids wouldn’t start until after the next council meeting anyway.
Knight added there are not actually many other options in the county if the association is seeking rinks that allow spectators.