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Coaches and team officials in youth sports required to be double-vaccinated

Most sports organizations in Greater Victoria already have the requirement
Cam Hope, CEO of Saanichton-based B.C. Hockey: “In our ecosystem, we were operating under these protocols, regardless.” BRUCE STOTESBURY, TIMES COLONIST

Island sports officials say B.C. public health orders announced Thursday calling for all adults coaching, managing or assisting with youth sports to be fully vaccinated won’t change much, because most sports organizations already have the requirement.

“It’s a good idea and makes sports safer. But it’s not a big change for us because most of our adults working with youth players are double-vaccinated anyway,” said Cam Hope, CEO of Saanichton-based B.C. Hockey.

“In our ecosystem, we were operating under these protocols, regardless.”

Hope said most of the regional hockey associations in the province have even more stringent regulations than the provincial health orders released Thursday.

“Also, we play in arenas, and each facility has had its own safety procedures for a long time now,” he said.

The Vancouver Island Amateur Hockey Association has already said that all coaches, managers, trainers and team officials must show proof of double vaccination by Nov. 22. The new provincial health order, although only announced Thursday, was introduced Oct. 25 and is retroactive to that date.

“We are highly supportive of the public health order, but we were already ahead of the game with our own regulations,” said Jim Humphrey, president of the association, which administers all youth hockey on the Island and Powell River.

“Our regulations also cover scorekeepers and timekeepers, because our youth players are in the penalty boxes with those adults, as well.”

The been-there-done-that refrain was echoed by Nicki Reich, president of the Victoria Minor Hockey Association.

“I’m glad the provincial health office has issued the same directive we have been implementing since the last month or so,” she said.

“It’s good to have that now backed up by the province. Very few of our coaches have been impacted by this because they are already double-vaccinated. But a few got vaccinated because of this requirement and that’s fantastic because we want as many people as possible vaccinated. We have had very little pushback on this.”

Reich said only one coach in the Victoria Minor Hockey Association has quit over the requirement: “He was transparent that he was not intending to get the vaccination and he has stepped down as coach and we respect his decision.”

Humphrey and Reich both said that one concern had been adult referees and linesmen who are required to be on the ice with youth hockey players. Refs and linesmen come under B.C. Hockey, which has issued a mandate requiring them all to be double-vaccinated.

“It’s good B.C. Hockey has mandated that, because parents told me they don’t want their kids on the ice with unvaccinated adult referees and linesmen,” said Humphrey.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the orders come in response to concerns and questions from parents and others. The order isn’t about enforcement or ­punishment, but ensuring the safety of youth activities, he said. “If you’re supervising kids sports, you should vaccinate,” said Dix.

Some details have yet to be fleshed out for sports organizations and others involved with activities such as dance. Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry are expected to provide more information on Tuesday.

B.C. reported 758 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, as the province inches closer to a 90 per cent vaccination rate for all eligible residents aged 12 and up. Island Health reported a spike of 114 new cases, for a total of 586 active cases.

The Health Ministry said 4,961 COVID-19 infections are active in the province, including 434 people in hospital with 155 in intensive care.

Ten more deaths were reported on Thursday, pushing the death toll to 2,147.

— With files from the Canadian Press and Cindy E. Harnett