A year ago, Jake Walker was the winning goaltender in the last high school hockey game of the year, a CIAC Division I champion with Fairfield Prep. On Tuesday morning, he found out there would be no champion this year.
Walker started an online petition that has drawn more than 30,000 signatures in a few hours, addressed to CIAC executive director Glenn Lungarini and Governor Ned Lamont, urging that the winter tournaments go on without spectators.
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“When I first saw the news break that the CIAC had a meeting to possibly postpone or cancel the tournament, I knew it wasn’t a good sign,” Walker said. “When it was official, my heart sank.
“I’m one year out of Fairfield Prep hockey. Some of the guys are still my best friends. We as high school athletes give everything for it. It’s not just Fairfield Prep hockey, it’s every winter sport.”
A recent petition at Boston College, where he’s a freshman and club hockey player, about the coronavirus was fresh in Walker’s mind when the news broke.
— Jake Walker (@JDWalker37) March 10, 2020
“I knew I had to start a petition and be the first to do so,” he said.
“To the CIAC,” the petition begins, “you have broken the hearts of all players, families, and coaches involved in this (year’s) winter sports tournament competition. Most notably those seniors who have dedicated their entire lives to their respective sports, many of whom will never play again after this year. This meant everything to them. These tournaments are something they cannot get back.”
Walker said he knew the passion of the state’s high school sports community, but he didn’t expect the response he got.
The petition suggests resuming the tournaments on Thursday “with a restricted spectator audience,” streaming the games online.
“I think the CIAC needs to come up with a creative solution,” Walker said. “In Connecticut, there are only two cases of coronavirus currently. It’s not considered an outbreak. I think high school students are not considered a high-risk group. They’re more at risk driving on (Interstate) 95 than passing away from coronavirus.”
The petition skyrocketed past its original goal of 15,000 signees and went to just fewer than 75,000 as of 10 p.m.