High school hockey teams face unique challenges due to COVID | WHEC.com

High school hockey teams face unique challenges due to COVID

Emily Putnam
Updated: February 13, 2021 06:13 PM
Created: February 13, 2021 05:20 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — It's been almost two weeks since Governor Andrew Cuomo gave high-risk high school sports teams the green light to start their seasons. 

However, sports like football, basketball, and hockey are not happening when they normally would, and teams are starting to run into some issues. Ice hockey teams in particular have had the unique challenge of finding places and times to play.

Typically, most high school ice hockey teams secure ice time well in advance of the start of the season, but with COVID regulations changing rapidly over the past few months that wasn't always an option. 

As a result, teams have been scrambling to find places and times to play. 

"I know several are at different rinks all over, just scurrying to try to find practices so it's been tough for a lot of them, for sure," said Rochester Ice Center General Manager Robert Hensel. 

Some local ice rinks remain closed to visitors due to COVID, thus further limiting the options available to high school teams. 

"When you have to move people or ask them to come later or maybe move to somewhere else for a practice, it's tough," said Hensel, who creates the schedules for the center. Despite having to make scheduling changes, Hensel and his team were able to find time for all three of their home teams (Fairport, Victor, and McQuaid) to play or practice on the ice six days a week. 

There are other issues. A standard high school ice hockey season is about four months long. This year, it will be less than two months long and will likely overlap with the Spring sports season. 

"We're cramming a pretty big season that would normally have a couple months in, you know, a five, six week time period," says Chuck Dossier, head coach of Aquinas Institute's ice hockey team. 

In the two weeks since the season officially began, teams have run into some other minor challenges as well, like having to remind kids about following COVID protocols.

"Wearing a mask at the rink is just new normal, we have to do it," says Dossier. "And reminding the kids the second their helmets come off, they're gonna have to wear them, and if they're on the ice they can wear them as long as they can until it's intolerable."

Despite the challenges of adjusting to playing with protocols and potentially playing at unfamiliar times and places, high school teams are demonstrating their resilience, their patience, and their passion for playing. 

"The fact that we were able to do it and keep everybody happy was great," said Hensel. "You know, it was a lot of work and a lot of time and a lot of coordination and sacrifice from a lot of people but we made it work."

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