The Atlantic Amateur Hockey Association recently revealed its “Return to Participation Guidelines,” a document outlining recommendations and best practices for players, coaches and spectators to partake in the organizations sanctioned events.
The Atlantic Amateur Hockey Association oversees leagues like the Atlantic Youth Hockey League (AYHL), the New Jersey Youth Hockey League (NJYHL) and the Mid-Atlantic Women’s Hockey Association (MAWHA), as well as Delaware Valley Hockey.
These league’s encompass programs from across New Jersey and surrounding communities throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, from squirt level skaters up to the 18U youth division, and delineations from A up to AAA level.
According to the Atlantic Amateur Hockey Association, “These guidelines are meant to supplement Federal, State, and Local regulations as well as local facility rules and requirements regarding the containment and spread of COVID-19,” and are subject to change in accordance with updates to those measures.
Bringing Back Competitive Youth Ice Hockey
The central message of the Atlantic Amateur Hockey Association “Return to Participation Guidelines” is simple: Everyone in the community can help bring competitive youth ice hockey back by following these best practices.
Below is a selection of some of the more interesting and important recommendations included in the document, but you can review the “Return to Participation Guidelines” in full at your convenience.
Points of Emphasis for Associations
Associations like the AYHL, NJYHL and MAWHA are expected to develop their own plans for a return to play that will be handed down to each organization. These plans are required to adhere to federal, state and CDC guidelines, as well as the guidelines and best practices outlined in the Atlantic Amateur Hockey Association document.
The following requirements are taken directly from the State regulations of Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania…These points of emphasis may not be applicable in all locations, but where required by governmental regulation or guidance, they must be followed. These are separate from the AAHA recommendations…The AAHA recommendations are a supplement to and not in place of current Federal, State, or Local guidance.Atlantic Amateur Hockey Association – Return to Participation Guidelines – Points of Emphasis for Associations
- Local Associations must create a Program Preparation Plan that outlines steps for the resumption of activities. As part of that plan, program leaders should identify adult staff members or volunteers to help remind coaches, players, and attendees about social or physical distancing measures and other safety guidelines.
- Associations must designate a point-of-contact person who should be familiar with these Guidelines, be available to answer questions, notify members and others, including leagues, rink facilities, officiating assignors, etc. if there is a diagnosed positive outbreak with a team, Association, or the surrounding community.
- Athletes and staff (including officials) must be screened through a temperature check and a health questionnaire prior to practices and games. If an individual has symptoms, they cannot participate in activities. It is recommended that attendance records be maintained.
Additional AAHA Recommendations for Associations
The days of players cleaning up pucks after practice are over in the world of hockey operations during COVID-19. This is just one of the recommended guidelines from the Atlantic Amateur Hockey Association.
- Coaches should divide players into smaller groups whenever possible, keeping players active and engaged at all times.
- Players should not leave the ice during a practice unless absolutely necessary.
- Players need to maintain as much physical separation as possible at all times.
- Coaches should maintain social distancing and avoid talking in close face-to-face proximity with players. It is recommended that coaches wear masks on the ice at practices unless they are exerting physical effort.
- At the end of a practice, players should be excused from the rink one-by-one and through different exit points of the rink.
- Do not ask players to participate in picking up pucks or other equipment from the ice.
Points of Emphasis for Players, Parents, Coaches, Officials and Volunteers
If any players, coaches, parents, guardians or officials have pre-existing conditions, please do not participate in any on-ice activities.
- All on-ice participants should bring their own re-hydration liquids to the rink facility in a re- sealable container that is clearly marked with the participant’s identity. Participants should NOT plan on refilling their containers at the rink facility.
- Players, Coaches, or Officials who may be at a higher risk for severe illness should not participate in any on-ice activity.
- Any Player, Coach, Official, Volunteer, Parent/Guardian, or Spectator exhibiting any symptoms or signs of illness should not enter the rink facility. If you do not feel well, you must stay home.
A Return to Game Action
Though the Atlantic Amateur Hockey Association (AAHA) did include game protocols in its “Return to Participation Guidelines,” unlike the North American Hockey League (NAHL) and Eastern Hockey League (EHL), which recently announced start dates for their 2020-21 season, the AAHA did not offer a potential opening date or timeline for when affiliate leagues could return to play.
That planning for and decision to return to game action will be left to the individual leagues themselves.
According to the document, these individual league plans “should conform to all government requirements, and the (standards stipulated in the ‘Return to Participation Guidelines).”
The AAHA does not sanction contact practices or competition for its membership in any rink facility where these activities are not permitted by Federal, State, and Local governmental or Public Health regulation or guidance. Any such activity that is held in contradiction to this statement is not covered by USA Hockey insurance.Atlantic Amateur Hockey Association – Return to Participation Guidelines – Game Protocol
Associations must share this information with their membership:
- No handshakes between coaches, players, or officials.
- At the end of the game, both teams will line up on their blue lines and perform a stick salute in lieu of a handshake line.
- Players must have their own re-hydration bottle, which is labeled with their name. They must be filled before arriving at the rink. NO Sharing of water bottles is permitted.
- Rink facilities will designate whether dressing rooms, showers, etc. may be used, and if permitted, the time limits for their use.
- Officials will encourage players to refrain from any interaction with an opponent during a stoppage in play. Players and coaches must understand the seriousness of the potential for the spread of the virus and conduct themselves with the utmost sportsmanship and class at all times.
Again, you may review the Atlantic Amateur Hockey Association’s “Return to Participation Guidelines” in full at your convenience.