Patience, safety and health

August 16, 2020

As junior hockey leagues across Ontario have later start dates for the 2020-2021 season on their respective, proposed agendas, the province is intent on putting students and teachers back in the classroom on time, in September.

As the highest level of the junior game in the province, the Ontario Hockey League has stated that its plan is for the 2020-2021 regular season to begin on December 1, which is well over two months later than normal.

Meantime, the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League has later than usual starts dates in mind on a proposed table that ranges from mid October to November to December and into January of 2021.

So, in essence, both the OHL and the NOJHL have already recognized that a late start to the 2020-2021 season is both inevitable and best for the safety, health and well being of all relative to the lingering COVID-19 pandemic.

School, though, is poised to begin, on time in September.

Let me begin on the school side by saying that I am a big fan of Ontario premier Doug Ford and the way he has acted, reacted and bravely led the province through the COVID-19 crisis.

But as for school starting on time, I am not so sure. Why the rush to return to the classroom where students and teachers will be enclosed in schools all day?

I say this as a parent whose two kids are into their mid 30s and who are not school teachers. (But one is a lawyer and one is a health and fitness professional and I spend a good deal of most days worrying about their safety.)

I also say this as an uncle who has nieces and nephews in both elementary and high school, as both students and teachers. The thought of them being in crowded classrooms and schools come September definitely has me on edge.

For sure, I am relieved that my “baby” sister retired from teaching at the end of the past school year. I would not want to think of her having to go into a classroom at age 59 and have to spend all day in a school surrounded by other teachers and a couple hundred or so students.

Back to the hockey thing, hopefully all can play out as teams and leagues return to play with late starts. I just hope that as the junior leagues such as the OHL and the NOJHL have put so much thought, time and energy into safety measures for players, coaches, officials, fans and parents that minor hockey does the same.

I have a soon to be nine-year old nephew who plays hockey. I love watching him play to the extent that I don’t think that I missed more than two or three of his games last season.

But I just hope that when/if minor hockey returns to play for the upcoming season that drastic safety measures are put into place. Such as the kids arriving to games in full equipment and staying out of the close confines of a dressing room.

Meantime, I am comfortable, for the most part, of how we are handling COVID-19 in Sault Ste. Marie as it pertains to following guidelines as set forth by Algoma Public Health.

My wife and I live downtown and we are out and about walking just about every single day.

We frequent downtown patios on a daily basis, often for a healthy snack or lunch and even for fine dining. And we have made our own pact that as long as we can eat and drink outside, we will not venture indoors to a restaurant.

We feel safe and well attended to at the places we frequent, taking comfort in the way the dining establishment owners and their workers are following public health guidelines.

Meanwhile, as someone who is both a hockey writer and a hockey fan, I await the start of the upcoming season, regardless of the later than normal dates, whatever they end up being.

But as for school starting up, I really wish it would remain out — or in a drastically reduced form relative to the number of hours of close contact.

Just my thoughts on all counts as an average person who cares and has concerns, all in one.

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