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Lower Mainland rec hockey league hits the ice amid rising COVID-19 cases

Last Updated Nov 25, 2020 at 4:25 pm PDT

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A hockey league in Burnaby, Langley, North Shore is starting up play again as COVID-19 cases spike in B.C.

Sportsnet 650 host usually plays in the league but is opting out because he doesn't think it's safe

Andrew Walker thinks if a player were to get COVID-19 an outbreak could happen even with safety measures

BURNABY (NEWS 1130) — An adult recreational hockey league in the Lower Mainland is starting up play again at a time when B.C. is setting records for COVID-19 cases.

The Adult Safe Hockey League, which operates in Burnaby, Langley and on the North Shore, hit pause for about two weeks, but games are scheduled to start again Wednesday night.

Andrew Walker, a host on NEWS 1130‘s sister station Sportsnet 650, usually plays in the league, but won’t be this year considering the circumstances.

“A couple of months ago, cases being what they were, I think it’s an appropriate risk to take for a lot of people. I think the situation has changed a little bit now,” he says. “Maybe this isn’t the best time. I, personally, just wish that the league would chill for a little bit and kind of wait this out and not try to reopen these leagues at the most controversial time.”

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A day ago, the province reported a dramatic spike in daily COVID-19 cases with infections while the number of patients hospitalized because of the virus continues to hit new highs.

Walker notes the health measures the league has put in place, including screening, dividers on the bench, and time limits in the dressing rooms, but he says the COVID-19 situation has changed.

“[The league] is a big moneymaker. At the end of the day, I think if someone on one of the teams has COVID it’s almost impossible to ignore or avoid an outbreak even with all the safety measures in place.”

He says the decision to keep the league going right now seems divisive among players.

“A lot of it is personal beliefs. Half the guys want to play, half the guys don’t want to play. Then the topic of payments and fees comes up,” he says.

He adds it puts hundreds of players in the league in a moral dilemma after they’ve paid several hundred dollars to join.

Walker says he hopes to travel home to Alberta for Christmas but feels that’s unlikely given how the pandemic is hitting both provinces.

Sports in B.C. can continue under current COVID-19 restrictions if provincial health protocols are met, but teams can’t travel outside their communities for games or competitions. Spectators aren’t allowed either.

“League organizers should continue planning for 2021 with today’s modifications in mind,” reads a release from the province.