Letter from the AHAI President: State of Return to Play Efforts

I attended the USA Hockey Affiliate Presidents’ meeting via Zoom on October 15. The meeting was attended by all the presidents throughout the U.S. Jim Smith and Pat Kelleher presided over the meeting. We are not the only state that is not playing hockey. Some of the affiliates are playing full schedules, some abbreviated and some not at all. This is not just an Illinois problem.

Both Jim Smith, USA Hockey President, and Pat Kelleher, USA Hockey Executive Director, told us that we must follow the restrictions placed on us by our local governments. We were told not to be irresponsible and not to ignore them. This pandemic goes far beyond children playing hockey. People are dying, people are living with permanent damage from the illness, businesses are closing, people are losing their jobs and their homes. It is SERIOUS.

We are not indifferent to your concerns, but we also have an obligation to follow the government’s lead and be responsible for not only hockey, but to the potential victims of “silent carriers”. We are now entering a phase which mirrors what happened in the beginning of the year. France, Italy, and England are surging. Wisconsin, Indiana, and Illinois seem to be spiking as well. I hope I am wrong, but it seems that we are headed backwards.

As for what AHAI has been doing or done to help reduce the risk level and get our kids back on the ice, we have been busy.

  1. Many months ago, we created a plan to present to the state entities that have determined the risk level that hockey has been assigned. This plan lays out many of the points our members have made to include:
    • Use of locker rooms, rink operations
    • Social distancing, wearing masks
    • The actual level of contact in hockey
    • The fact we do not touch the same common object
    • That we wear protective equipment (basketball does not)
    • The fact we have been skating for many months with minimal issues
    • Several other key points
  2. We have made several attempts to get this in front of the state entities (IDPH and DCEO). We have reached out to them directly.
  3. We have collected several studies done on actual contact in hockey that USA Hockey has provided us to share with the state.
  4. We have spoken to many other USA Hockey governing bodies that have been successful, and those that have not been, in getting games allowed in their states.

We absolutely understand the frustration. This is not a USA Hockey or AHAI restriction, this is a state restriction. As I said, USA hockey has told each state to follow their state guidelines and bring hockey back safely. We have been doing just that. Regardless of who governs hockey in Illinois, hockey games are not allowed in the state. In Illinois, high school football is king. The state did not allow football to be played so this makes our task much more daunting. We assure you we are not giving up on efforts to move hockey out of the high-risk category.

We will keep trying to get back to “normal” whatever that may be. Please try to understand this and support us. We will get through these horrible times if we stick together.

Kevin Bolger
AHAI President

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