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Assemblymen call on Gov. to allow athletes to return to ice rinks

Now that New Jersey officials have authorized gyms, indoor dining and entertainment venues to resume operations with proper safety precautions during the ongoing coronavirus health crisis, state Assemblymen Ron Dancer (R-Burlington, Monmouth, Middlesex, Ocean) and Kevin J. Rooney (R-Bergen, Essex, Morris, Passaic) are calling on Gov. Phil Murphy to allow athletes to return to ice rinks.

“Ice hockey officials have consulted with medical professionals to design a safe return to the rink. I have spoken with parents, players and local associations and they are confident we have the protocols in place to protect against the transmission of the coronavirus,” Dancer was quoted as saying in an Oct. 7 press release from the Assembly Republicans.

“As programs like football start back up, it is illogical to exclude ice hockey, a sport with no skin-to-skin contact and players that don’t come into contact with the puck,” he said.

According to the press release, research from Eastern Michigan University shows that during a typical hockey game, player-to-player close proximity is limited to three seconds. Dr. Mike Stuart of the Mayo Clinic and USA Hockey’s chief medical and safety officer, along with other medical professionals, have determined the sport is safe to play provided the proper precautions are exercised.

“It is to our young players’ detriment that the governor chooses to ignore the facts. A safe return to competition is possible and is happening in neighboring states like Pennsylvania,” Rooney said. “If people can exercise inside a gym and go to movie theaters, they can play ice hockey.”

On Oct. 1, USA Hockey Executive Director Pat Kelleher sent a letter to Judith Persichilli, New Jersey’s health commissioner, and Dr. Christina Tan, the state epidemiologist, to support the Atlantic Amateur Hockey Association’s (AAHA) request to return to ice hockey, according to the press release.

The AAHA, which oversees youth ice hockey associations in New Jersey, issued guidelines that emphasize COVID-19 mitigation strategies such as face masks, proper hygiene and sanitization, and practical social distancing.

New Jersey’s Department of Health defines hockey as a medium risk sport. Beginning July 8, no-contact ice hockey practices were permitted to return indoors, however, sports in the medium risk category are currently only able to participate in competitions outdoors, according to Dancer and Rooney.

“We are urging Gov. Murphy to work with us. Be a team player and allow ice hockey athletes to responsibly resume indoor competitions and scrimmages,” the two Republican legislators said.

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