Monday, February 1st, 2021
Members of our Hockey Community:
As most of you know, the potential reinstatement of Winter youth sports in Michigan has garnered a great deal of attention over the last week. Community members and leaders of various Winter sports have engaged local and state leadership, in an effort to advocate a safe return to sports competition. With the introduction of a new Director of Michigan’s Department of Health & Human Services, early reports suggest that dialogue with Michigan’s sports governing bodies has improved significantly, increasing optimism that a resolution may be in the works.
On Friday, January 29th, MAHA President George Atkinson had an opportunity to participate in a conference call with several members of the MDHHS, including newly-appointed Director Elizabeth Hertel. During this call, Mr. Atkinson was able to provide detailed information on how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our hockey community throughout the last 12 months. This included the extended rink closures and event cancellations, as well as the unintended consequences that came with those orders throughout the summer. Also discussed were the risk mitigation strategies, developed and embraced by our community and supported by USA Hockey, which led to a short return to hockey activity from September - November.
Discussions turned to the current activity pause, initiated back in November. While originally justified by the rising new cases of COVID-19 statewide, continued in-state extensions of the pause have led to an increase in sports operating outside the Epidemic Orders, as well as an increase in teams traveling out-of-state to find competition. This, in addition to the increased sports activities allowed in bordering Midwest states, is causing activity to take place that is contrary to what MDHHS is trying to accomplish.
The implementation and success of the MHSAA pilot program, used to finish Fall sports seasons was also a topic of conversation.
Members of the MDHHS staff, including Director Hertel, were very engaged in the discussion and the impression left is that they’re exploring solutions that would allow for a return to Winter sports activity.
These signs of progress are indicative of a renewed effort, by the new MDHHS leadership, towards reinstatement of Winter sports. It should be noted that this is not a guarantee that something, or anything, will happen in the near future -- as the MDHHS tries to navigate a safe return, not only to sports but also to school as well. We will continue to work with state leadership, when given the opportunity, in hopes of achieving a safe return to Winter sports activity.
Once again, we appreciate your patience and support. We will continue to update you on these progressions as they become available.