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Junior sports teams in B.C. can practise together following changes to health order

Click to play video 'Junior hockey league reaction to provincial health orders' Junior hockey league reaction to provincial health orders
BCHL commissioner Chris Hebb joined Jay Janower on Global BC to discuss the situation facing 19-20-year-old Jr hockey players in our province – Dec 13, 2020

B.C.’s provincial health officer has modified rules around sports to allow junior hockey teams to practise together.

The previous provincial health order banned players over the age of 18 from practising with teammates.

Click to play video 'B.C.’s public health order having ‘unintended consequences,’ says BCHL commissioner' B.C.’s public health order having ‘unintended consequences,’ says BCHL commissioner
B.C.’s public health order having ‘unintended consequences,’ says BCHL commissioner – Dec 9, 2020

Athletes who are 21 years old or younger can now practise under COVID-19 safety protocols, but are still not cleared to play games. The policy will remain in place until at least Jan. 8, at which point health officials will determine whether it needs to be extended.

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The BCHL is attempting to play a season but has yet to determine when the new season will start. The WHL was set to drop the puck on Jan. 8, but the start of the season has been delayed to accommodate additional health orders.

Read more: B.C.’s public health order having ‘unintended consequences,’ says BCHL commissioner

The BCHL and WHL had raised concerns the previous rules were unfair and banned older players from the ice.

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“Pretty good Christmas present for all of our 19 and 20 year olds that got caught up in the order and we are very grateful to the Provincial Health Office for relenting,” BCHL commissioner Chris Hebb said.

“We can’t guarantee the season will start in January, but we are not throwing in the towel.”

The change, posted on the ViaSport website, revises ‘adult team sport’ to ‘group sport’ and creates restrictions for those 22 years of age or older.

According to a statement from ViaSport:

“Group sport (i.e. sport for those 22 years of age or older) is only permitted in groups of up to two people (e.g. singles tennis or an athlete and a coach training session). Outdoor group sport is only permitted in groups of up to four people (e.g. four individuals may run together or four individuals could run soccer drills).

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“All participants must maintain a distance of three metres from one another while participating in the sport activity.

“While this order provides clarity, it is important to remember the intent is to limit group gathering. For example, individuals should not be playing a sport with four people and then switching teams to another group of four during the same time slot.”

Athletes are permitted to travel to their home club for the purpose of sport.

A home club is defined as the sport organization, club, or facility where a person is registered for ongoing sport programming.

Read more: B.C. year in review 2020: How COVID-19 changed the face of sports

ViaSport notes that individuals should not carpool with other participants.

High performance athletes are exempt and must be identified to a targeted athlete list with the Canadian Sport Institute Pacific by their respective provincial or national sport organization.