Neil C. Cavallaro was wearing two hats while watching a pair of season-opening boys high school hockey games at West Haven’s Bennett Rink Monday: one as the city’s superintendent of schools, the other as the parent of a Notre Dame-West Haven hockey player.
Cavallaro decided to allow two fans per hockey player, both home and away, for both the Notre Dame-Immaculate game and the Hamden-West Haven game held Monday at Bennett, the season opener for all teams. This was done despite a league-wide policy from the Southern Connecticut Conference that fans would not be allowed during the first week of games due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I do think it is a ridiculous policy,” Cavallaro said on Tuesday. “I said to myself, ‘It’s a 1,200-seat arena. If I allow two parents for every participant, at the most that’s 100 fans in a 1,200-seat arena, an arena like most hockey rinks that has seating on both sides.’ Frankly, if we were not able to socially distance everyone, then I would not be worth my salt as a superintendent or a person in charge.”
The SCC spectator policy is not the only thing Cavallaro disagreed with. He was also unhappy with the CIAC’s recommendation last week to not allow spectators at hockey games for all of February. This recommendation came after the CIAC met with the Connecticut Rink Owners Association.
Bennett Rink is owned and operated by the West Haven Board of Education and is not a part of the Connecticut Rink Owners’ Association.
“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 Cavallaro, 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. … You can figure it out. It’s very easy to say. ‘No fans.’”
Cavallaro said everyone got into the game for free.
SCC commissioner Al Carbone said he had spoken with Cavallaro before Monday. He said he wasn’t disappointed in West Haven’s decision.
“(Cavallaro) explained why they would allow fans and the reasoning for it,” Carbone said. “(West Haven) has been pretty up front from the beginning about allowing fans, only allowing in ice hockey.”
Carbone also clarified that, “the league was not making the spectator decision. We recommended the decision.”
Cavallaro said he heard from a lot of hockey parents after the CIAC’s recommendation last week in hopes that he would allow them into Bennett.
“I believe parents should have the opportunity to watch their kids participate,” Cavallaro said. “I will take the criticism. You do what you think is right and in this case, I believe what I am doing is right.”
As far as basketball games, Cavallaro said he believes the school will abide by the SCC policy and not allow fans in this week, including the Hillhouse at West Haven boys basketball season opener Friday night.
“I can live with a week,” Cavallaro said.
Beginning Monday, West Haven’s policy will be the same as hockey: two parents per player, not just the home team.
The SCC is expected to announce all of its updated spectator policies later this week.
“We will have many schools who won’t have fans starting the 15th,” Carbone said.