The Connecticut Rink Owners Association decided to reverse course and allow one parent or guardian per high school hockey player at each of its 16 state rinks beginning Monday.
Just last week, the CIAC had notified the state athletic directors after meeting with the association not to allow spectators for the entire month of February. Wednesday’s decision is in alignment with the DECD Sector Rule for spectators, which includes the wearing of masks and social distancing per COVID-19 protocols.
Anthony Giusto, general manager of the Newington Arena and the Cheshire boys ice hockey coach, said he spoke with CIAC executive director Glenn Lungarini on Wednesday morning before the decision was made.
“In talking with ADs, the CIAC and (SCC Commissioner) Al Carbone, we were all kind of under same idea to go with spectators,” Giusto said. “It was a collaborative effort.”
Giusto said the rinks in the association were “interested in keeping our door open. We were shut down for seven weeks (during the endemic). That was pretty devastating for us.”
Bob Crawford, the owner of three rinks in the association (Simsbury International Skating Center, Champions Skating Center in Cromwell and the Bolton Ice Palace) said he would have been OK going to the end of February with no fans.
“I had planned to do it until the end of the month, but one person is fine, too,” said Crawford, a former player for the Hartford Whalers, among other NHL teams. “We will accommodate everyone the best we can. Some schools don’t want fans, some do. It’s so hard to enforce across the board. We will follow the sector rules and (schools) can decide whether they want fans. Youth hockey goes by DECD sector rules.”
On Monday, Bennett Rink in West Haven allowed two fans per player into its arena for a doubleheader: Notre Dame-West Haven vs. Immaculate and Hamden vs. West Haven. It defied both the CIAC’s and the SCC’s recommendation to not allow fans.
Bennett Rink is not a part of the rinks association, instead owned and operated by the West Haven Board of Education.
“How do you just make a policy that parents can’t go and watch their kids play hockey, or any sport for that matter?” said Neil C. Cavallaro, West Haven’s superintendent of schools and a member of the CIAC’s ice hockey committee. “I didn’t think it was fair. I didn’t think it was right, so I came up with a plan to allow parents into Bennett Rink.”
Said Giusto: “Eventually we would have (made this decision), We (the association) has been getting a lot of emails and texts from schools asking about what our basis was for keeping (fans) out of the rinks. Monday’s events expedited it.”