Chicago vaccination mandate: new rules confusing hockey players, rinks

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Confusing rules for how proof of vaccination warrants would affect skaters on city and suburban rinks have left some hockey players and their parents scratching their heads.

Similar, but not identical, mandates came into effect Jan. 3 for gyms, bars and restaurants that require proof of vaccination for guests five years and older.

The city’s mandate was announced on December 21. Cook County followed suit two days later.

During the holidays, parents quickly began calling and emailing local authorities to find out if young skaters would really need to show proof of vaccination to play hockey, as is the case for training in. a gym.

Clarifications have been issued.

The county has announced that it will not require skaters 18 and under to show proof of vaccination. And spectators would not need to show proof of vaccination, provided no food or drink is served at the rink and patrons remain masked at all times.

The city, however, has said that an indoor ice rink falls under the mandate governing gymnasiums and fitness facilities and is therefore still subject to the mandate.

“Standard open ice time and recreational leagues (youth or adult) would require a vaccination check,” Elisa Sledzinska, spokesperson for the Chicago Department of Commercial Affairs and Consumer Protection, said in an email. to the Sun-Times this week.

The email, however, made an exception for programming an ice rink “organized or sponsored by an after-school program, daycare, school or the park district.” Young people who play on private rinks in private leagues are not exempt.

At the city’s ice rinks, a patchwork of rules and applications followed as the mandate unfolded this week.

At the McFetridge Sports Center on the North Side, one of two indoor rinks operated by the Chicago Park District, vaccination cards were checked at the gate on Friday for an open skate. Although masks are mandatory on the ice, only one skater in a dozen could be seen wearing one.

“Next week it might be different; it seems like it’s constantly changing, ”said parent and player Tom Crozier, 51, whose eight-year-old son who plays for a park district team called the River Dogs.

Still, it is fortunate that the rinks remain open. “I’m just glad we get to play hockey,” he said, referring to closures last year when the sport was on hiatus due to the pandemic. While the closures applied to all fitness centers at the time, hockey teams across the country saw a series of COVID outbreaks and at least one study found an increased risk of transmission on indoor rinks.

However, even rink operators seem confused by the latest rules. According to a person with knowledge of the rink operations in McFetridge, youth hockey teams not affiliated with the park district would also not have to adhere to the vaccination mandate, although it is not immediately clear whether this complied. to city politics.

Likewise, Fifth Third Arena, which has two indoor public ice rinks at its facilities near the United Center, informed some hockey team captains late last month that even if it would stop catering, it wouldn’t. would require proof of vaccination for anyone. involved in its programs for young people or adults. The notification said the rink would take a “firm stand” on requiring masks for everyone, including skaters on the ice.

However, an opinion on the arena’s website now states that “all on-ice participants aged 18 and over must show proof of vaccination and photo ID.”

Spokesmen for the rink, which is owned by the Chicago Blackhawks, did not respond to requests for comment.

Johnny’s Ice House – a private ice rink that has two locations west of downtown – follows the city’s mandate and requires proof of vaccination, according to a notification to guests.

Bret Hartung, assistant coach of the Stallions, a Chicago youth hockey team that is not affiliated with the Park District, said it was confusing trying to keep up with the rules, but said everything everyone seemed to be doing their best.

“We try to follow the rules as we realize what they are at every rink we visit,” said Hartund, whose team plays regularly in the Parks District and at private facilities in the city and suburbs. .

A sign at the McFetridge Sports Complex.
Brian Rich / Sun-Times



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