Halifax retracts livestream ban in arenas following uproar from hockey fans

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Hockey N.S. looking to help parents watch their kids play
WATCH: Hockey parents say the Halifax Regional Municipality is offside for banning live streaming of minor hockey games. Parents can’t be inside the area to watch their kids play because of COVID-19 restrictions. Now Hockey Nova Scotia is looking to find a quick solution – Jan 27, 2021

Halifax hockey parents were ready for a fight when the Halifax Regional Municipality issued a statement Tuesday banning livestreaming of minor hockey games.

As coronavirus restrictions ease, the province allowed minor sports to resume play in Nova Scotia on Jan. 25 but no spectators are allowed inside the arenas under current public health protocols. Minor hockey teams were livestreaming games to allow parents and fans to watch the action.

On Tuesday, the city cracked down on recording and live-streaming in its sports and recreational facilities after receiving “intense interest to record and livestream in our arenas, especially among hockey groups,” said the statement.

“Recording and livestreaming of participants has not been permitted in municipal facilities including arenas,” the statement reads. “This practice has been in place for many years in order to protect the privacy of participants.”

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Hockey parents like Peter Black questioned why HRM officials would enforce a ban on livestreaming in arenas during a pandemic when provincial public health restrictions don’t allow parents and fans to sit rinkside and watch games.

“I don’t think they (parents) want to necessarily be watching their kids score a goal, or make a great pass, or stop a shot,” said Black. “I think they want to see their kids interact with other kids and see them be good sports and humans because they haven’t had the chance to do that for the last year.”

Black says his children’s hockey games were broadcast by a team official inside the rink on a private Facebook page, so parents could either watch at home or in their cars outside in the parking lot while they wait for their children.

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Black says he wrote a letter to the municipality and his councillor regarding the policy and believed this was the wrong time to apply the rule.

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“Nova Scotians agree that they will support rules and they will agree with rules if they feel that they are fair, reasonable or they have a very clear outcome,” said Black. “In this case, I think people are kind of scratching their heads — this kind of feels like the wrong application of this rule at this time.”

Hockey Nova Scotia executive director Amy Walsh said she met with HRM officials Tuesday to try and find a quick solution and say’s it’s not just a hockey issue but a policy that affects other sport user groups in the municipality as well.

“I think parents just want to watch their kids play and we absolutely sympathize with that, that’s why we’ve been working so hard to come to a resolution with HRM,” said Walsh.

HRM changed its position late Wednesday, saying it would allow livestreaming in its arena facilities and that they understood the desire to livestream games, especially given the public health protocols currently in place.

“Following discussions with Hockey Nova Scotia and further examination of the privacy concerns, the municipality will permit livestreaming for facility rentals at the discretion of the renter,” said the HRM spokesperson Maggie-Jane Spray in a statement.

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“Signage will be placed in the facilities to indicate that renters in the facility may be livestreaming or digitally recording their activities.”

Liddy Wallace started a petition online calling on the municipality to allow livestreaming of games to resume while spectators can’t enter the rink.

“The ban just doesn’t make sense and I think people need to be aware of it,” said Wallace who volunteers as the health and safety rep on her daughter’s U-9 hockey team.

Wallace said she was pleased the city reversed its decision, saying it will make a lot of people happy.

“It’s great to see politics haven’t got in the middle of it and were able to act quickly,” said Wallace. “It’s great that we were able to accomplish something in a relatively short period of time, and it’s times like this COVID, where [livestreaming] is almost essential more than anything and it’s an easy way to make people happy.”

HRM says it will continue to work with Hockey Nova Scotia and other sport and recreation partners to balance personal privacy with the use of digital recording to record and broadcast events that occur in municipal facilities.

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