Both Michael Kydd’s children play minor hockey in Bedford, N.S., but he hasn’t been able to see them play on the ice this year.
The BMO Centre, like other hockey rink facilities across the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM), is closed to spectators.
“What you are actually seeing are parents looking for every opportunity to peer through every window (at the rink),” said Kydd. “It’s what we did at the forum the other day, just to get a glimpse of our kid skating.”
Kydd says players are dropped off at the rink, half-dressed in their gear at a specific entrance for the ice pad they are using, and a specified exit to use on the way out, as to minimize interactions with other ice users.
The parents are left outside to gather in the parking lot and stand around, he says, waiting and speculating on when they might be allowed in.
“Coaches are confused, association presidents are confused, politicians are confused, everybody is confused,” said Kydd.
“Nobody has sat down and had a legitimate conversation to say, ‘ok folks, we brought out the rebound plan, here’s what’s going to happen come October first when we initiate stage two.'”
From a talk in the parking lot came the idea to strike up an online petition, aimed at pressuring policymakers to ease the strict limit on spectators.
Over the past 38 hours, nearly 3,000 signatures have been gathered, calling on the government and Hockey Nova Scotia, as the petition reads, “Let Parents Back in the Rink.”
“I think that’s where parents are getting frustrated is there’s just no communication,” he said.
Hockey Nova Scotia released its COVID-19 Rebound Plan in late June. The 31-page guideline gives hockey organizations all the tools and directives it needs to follow in order to allow youth the chance to play the game safely while following all public health protocols, says executive director Amy Walsh.
But when it comes to facilities and capacity, that’s not a Hockey Nova Scotia decision, she said.
“We’re responsible for our rebound plan and ensuring kids are safe on the ice, but as far as restrictions inside the facility that’s up to each facility,” said Walsh
Walsh says each rink across the province, whether it’s a private or a public facility, have their own plans and guidelines in place including use of dressing rooms, washrooms, and requirements for facemasks.
Where some arena facilities might be stricter than others can depend on a wide variety of issues, she says, but she understands the parent’s concerns.
“It’s going to look different at each facility,” said Walsh. “There are different sizes, there are different restrictions and they (the facilities and staff) are trying to do their best.
“They want to be open and they want to see hockey families in there and we want to see hockey families in there, too. We absolutely do, but we need to work together and keep our hockey families safe.”
Kydd says the facilities need to let parents inside, arguing there’s no difference between a hockey rink or a restaurant or classroom.
“I was at Costco on Saturday and there had to of been 500 plus people in and out of that store,” he said. “Everyone had masks on but people were criss-crossing everywhere.”
In an email statement, HRM spokesperson Maggie-Jane Spray said that municipally-owned facilities are restricting spectators within arenas to ensure group gathering sizes and physical distancing requirements are maintained in accordance with public health.
“Staff is continuously reviewing requirements and capabilities,” said Spray. “So there may be a point in the future that access to facilities will be adjusted.
“However, given the high demand for access to ice, these measures are necessary to align with current public health protocols.”
Kydd remains optimistic that a change will come and points to the COVID-19 case count in Nova Scotia, where there’s currently has just one active case across the province, saying he’s hopeful parents won’t have to wait outside much longer.