A city official told Global News the measure, enacted last Friday, stems from last week’s provincial declaration that suspended most sports activities.
Andrew Roberts, the city’s recreation director, said the purpose is to prevent groups of people from practising or playing hockey and violating current public health guidelines.
Global News obtained a letter from the city to community associations, dated Nov. 30, that stated, “We strongly recommend not to leave any hockey nets available for use while the rink is not being supervised, to discourage large gatherings of individuals participating in this activity.”
“Outside of the supervised public skating times or the community association rental times, we’re recommending that community associations don’t leave the nets out just to prevent organized games or pickup games from taking place,” Roberts said.
“The biggest difference primarily is the fact that outdoor rinks (have) a lot of unsupervised time. Our indoor rinks are always staffed under supervision,” Roberts said, speaking via Zoom.
Last Wednesday the provincial government announced in a statement that it was suspending all “team/group sports, activities, games, competitions, recitals, practices, etc. … including amateur and recreational leagues.”
The province still allows athletes under the age of 18 to continue practising in groups of eight or fewer, including coaches, so long as they maintain proper physical distance and wear a mask if indoors.
Roberts clarified that the city still allows hockey nets if these regulations are followed.
He also said these are rules for City of Saskatoon facilities and only recommendations for community associations.
Aside from practising, groups of 30 are allowed on ice rinks so long as they have the proper distance between them and wear masks if indoors.
City Park Community Association President Colleen Steele said she’s sad the rinks won’t be used for a while but understands why the measures are necessary.
She says not many people regularly use the rink but that it still helps build a sense of community.
“Especially with a community association, we just try to bring people together. Trying to do that, at this point, during a pandemic doesn’t leave a lot of options,” she said, speaking on the phone.
The provincial release said the new measures remain in effect until Dec. 17, at which point the chief medical health officer will review them.