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Hanover Hockey Association OKs youth hockey games against other organizations

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 12/9/2020 10:01:16 PM
Modified: 12/9/2020 10:01:07 PM

HANOVER — The Hanover Hockey Association will allow three of its youth teams to play 12 games against other clubs across the state of New Hampshire starting Friday. The test period, meant to determine if it is safe to continue competition throughout the winter, will be evaluated after the last game is played on Dec. 27.

The HHA reached the decision last week and reaffirmed it at the association’s monthly executive board meeting Tuesday night. More than 50 of the association’s members tuned into the public session of the Zoom conference call to share their opinions.

“It wasn’t an easy decision,” HHA president Adrienne Peraza said in a Tuesday night phone interview. “We spent a lot of time deliberating it and going over both sides. At the end of the day, I think what the board came to was we had already talked about it last week, and no new information has been received within the state. Most of our members still felt confident in the decision to move forward.”

Still, some executive board members and parents remained unconvinced.

Rebecca Zaha, an epidemiologist with nearly 20 years’ experience and a mother of three kids who play hockey for the HHA, penned an email to the HHA board Sunday encouraging all play stay in-house at Campion Rink. Since the state of New Hampshire released guidelines for hockey and indoor ice arena activities and allowed a return to the ice on Oct. 30, the HHA has not allowed its teams to compete except for intrasquad scrimmages and practices.

“We all want our kids to be active and engaged, and have a ‘normal’ life,” Zaha said in a phone interview Wednesday. “But these are not normal times, and as a parent and community member, we must all evaluate the risks.

“What we have to do as parents is be role models and leaders for our kids in decision-making, and not let our individual interests outweigh the good of the community, particularly given the preponderance of evidence coming from the science.”

In her email, Zaha outlined six factors that should be considered:

■Travel increases virus transmission.

■ Places with more COVID-19 provide more opportunity for new infections.

■Older children experience the same if not more risk in travel hockey.

■Allowing travel from Dec. 11 to Dec. 27, when school is in session, does not avoid school transmission during possible exposure.

■A trial period of hockey travel puts children and community in imminent harm.

■If any non-zero risk activity is going to be prioritized, it must be school.

The association’s bylaws state the HHA district includes Hanover, Lyme and Norwich, but other players come from Lebanon, Kearsarge, Enfield and Claremont. And that doesn’t include membership from Vermont that is not participating this winter because all non-essential travel to and from Vermont now requires quarantine.

The three teams allowed to travel — two 14U teams and a 12U squad — will play teams located in Belknap, Cheshire, Hillsborough, Rockingham and Strafford counties. Some games will be on the road, others are scheduled with teams at Campion, which is located in West Lebanon and run by the Hanover Improvement Society.

To play any games, the HHA is asking both its teams and opponents to wear masks at all times. No locker rooms will be used, carpooling is strongly discouraged and any non-household members in the car must wear a mask.

Hanover health officer Michael Hinsley said the HHA had been “exceptionally responsive and proactive.”

“I believe the amateur and youth hockey players, if those guidelines are being followed, and the parents going adhere to the guidelines, it can occur safely,” Hinsley said in an interview.

Hanover Town Manager Julia Griffin told the Valley News that the town is “not eager to invite more COVID into our region and are particularly mindful of the risks right now given the serious outbreak now occurring at Hanover Terrace.”

In an email ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, she noted that the COVID-19 positivity rate in the southern part of the state is higher than it is for Grafton County, and said officials “have seen less mask adherence, social distancing adherence and a tendency to carpool in hockey settings in the southern part of the state.”

Because Campion is located in West Lebanon and the HHA is not affiliated with the Hanover Recreation Department, however, Griffin said her office doesn’t have any jurisdiction.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu closed indoor hockey rinks in mid-October in New Hampshire after health officials reported at least 158 youth and adult had tested positive over the previous two months.

Sununu also joined a coalition on Nov. 12 of governors from Vermont, Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Jersey in halting interstate competition through the end of 2020.

The concern over the HHA restarting competition comes as the seven-day rolling average of new cases in New Hampshire jumped by 38%. As of Wednesday night, the state has 6,509 active cases and 232 current hospitalizations.

“My biggest fear is if we have visitors coming from an area that has a positivity rate as a population nearing 10%, that when they come, and they come to visit, that there is very likely going to be additional vector of virus into our local community,” Hinsley said.

Pete Nakos can be reached at pnakos@vnews.com.




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