Safety and protocols for a Return to Hockey

Clearly-defined guidelines will help ensure the safety and well-being of all participants

Our day-to-day routine has been altered by COVID-19, and hockey has not been immune. Hockey Canada is committed to providing Return to Hockey resources to ensure Canadians in every province and territory are prepared to get back on the ice as quickly and safely as possible.

The Safety Guidelines will take hockey associations and leagues through how to prepare for a return to hockey, hygiene, return-to-play protocols and the use of facilities. With the depth of resources comes responsibility, and it is very important for Members, hockey associations, leagues and teams to appoint someone to oversee health and safety protocols.

Download the Safety Guidelines (PDF) - last updated October 20, 2021

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are the Hockey Canada Safety Guidelines specific to COVID-19 mandatory for all leagues, hockey associations and Members?

The Hockey Canada Safety Guidelines represent Hockey Canada’s recommendations for best practices for delivering hockey programming as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. It is important to note that going forward Provincial/Territorial, and local public health authorities will be putting different re-opening plans in place meaning restrictions will vary across Canada depending on the current COVID-19 landscapes. Hockey Canada has provided this manual as a guidance document for Members and hockey associations but realize that you will work with your applicable public health authority on creating guidelines that meet your requirements as hockey is delivered in your areas.

It is important to remember that effective risk management steps will assist in keeping both your program and the community safe and as well protect your organization from liability.

2. Will ice facility operators establish COVID-19 protocols within their facilities independently, and will there be a coordinated approach to how they operate?

Each province/territory is at different stages in their reopening. Facilities will vary in their approach to operating based on applicable public health authority guidelines in place.

3. Has Hockey Canada made the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory to register for hockey?

Anyone participating in or attending a Hockey Canada controlled event or activity hosted in Canada must be fully vaccinated. This includes, without limitation, participants, volunteers, and spectators at all activities relating to national or international events and camps, national programs, and attendees at national meetings. To be “fully vaccinated” one must have received the necessary dose(s) of a Health Canada approved vaccine at least fourteen (14) days prior to the start of the event or activity that the individual wishes to attend or participate in. Hockey Canada will consider exemptions based on guidance from government and public health authorities, as well as experts retained by the organization.

Hockey Canada has not made vaccines mandatory at this time for participation in Member controlled events or activities, such as playing games and practicing within a Minor Hockey Association or League. Hockey Canada strongly recommends that all participants in Member sanctioned activities and programs who are eligible to receive a Health Canada approved COVID-19 vaccine be fully vaccinated.

Hockey Canada’s stakeholders, including its Members, Minor Hockey Associations, Leagues and Teams must, at a minimum, follow the advice of their provincial and/or regional public health authority regarding the standards specific to the prevention of COVID-19 which must be met to engage in hockey activities, and which may include vaccinations in some jurisdictions.

4. What do I do if my child tests positive for COVID-19?

Keep your child home and out of the hockey environment. Your child should not return to hockey activities until all steps outlined by their healthcare provider and public health authority are completed and they are symptom free for 24 hours.

5. What if a person the participant is residing with such as a parent/family member tests positive for COVID-19? What protocols should we follow?

If a person the participant is residing with tests positive for COVID–19, the participant and those the participant is residing with will need to stay out of the hockey environment. They should contact their health care provider and public health authority for instructions. Anyone identified as a close contact should stay out of the hockey environment until all public health authority steps have been completed. Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 should stay out of the hockey environment until all steps outlined by their health care provider and public health authority are completed and they are symptom free for 24 hours.

6. If someone on my child’s team tests positive for COVID-19, will the team be allowed to continue to play hockey?

If someone on your child’s team tests positive, the public health authority guidelines will determine contact tracing and isolation requirements. It is possible, therefore, that one diagnosis on a team could lead to that team being required to pause hockey activities until the public health authority determines it is safe to return.

7. What if my child is sick but does not have COVID-19?

The player should follow up with their health care provider if required and the public health authority if COVID-19 is suspected. They should not return to the hockey environment until all steps outlined by their health care provider and public health authority are completed and they are symptom free for 24 hours.

8. What should I do if my child is exhibiting signs of COVID-19 but has not been tested?

The player should remain out of the hockey environment and contact their health care provider and public health authority for required steps to be taken. They should not return to the hockey environment until all steps outlined by their health care provider and public health authority are completed and they are symptom free for 24 hours.

9. What should I expect if my child begins to feel ill at a hockey activity?

If participants do not feel well or have identified respiratory symptoms, ensure they advise team staff immediately and put on a cloth mask. The participant should immediately go home and follow up with their health care provider and the public health authority if COVID-19 is suspected. They should not return to the hockey environment until all steps outlined by their health care provider and public health authority are completed and they are symptom free for 24 hours.

10. Should players/parents/coaches wear masks entering the facility and dressing room?

It is recommended anyone entering the facility should wear a cloth mask (it may also be required by the public health authority and/or the facility). The cloth mask can be removed by players while participating in an on-ice activity. Continue to monitor Member, facility and public health authority guidelines specific to wearing masks.

Coaches and team staff should wear cloth masks in the facility at all times including, in the dressing room, on the bench and on the ice during practice.

Wearing a mask alone will not prevent the spread of COVID-19. You must consistently and strictly adhere to good hygiene and public health measures, including frequent hand washing and physical distancing. For important information on masks, please CLICK HERE.

11. Is it a requirement for all individuals, regardless of their age, to wear a mask in the facility?

It is important to check public health authority information on masks. Currently the Public Health Agency of Canada recommends:

  • Children under the age of 2 should not wear masks.
  • Between the ages of 2 and 5, children may be able to wear a mask if supervised. This will depend on their ability to tolerate it as well as put it on and take it off.
  • Children older than 5 should wear a mask in situations or settings where they're recommended.
  • Anyone who has trouble breathing should not wear a mask.
  • Anyone who's unable to remove a mask without assistance should not wear a mask.

12. When will games be permitted?

The type of hockey activities that may occur when hockey returns will be determined by the regional governing Member of Hockey Canada, in consultation with the appropriate government and public health authorities. In some cases, this may be limited initially to include skill based activities that respect physical distancing protocols, while in others, modified or traditional game play may be possible. It is difficult at this stage to predict when games will fully return in all parts of the country with any degree of certainty.

13. Can players and teams store equipment at an arena? Will there be designated dressing rooms for each team?

Decisions will be made by the facility, based on public health authority guidelines.

14. Will any changes be made to organized hockey (4-on-4 / 3-on-3, non-checking, travel restrictions, etc.)?

Each province/territory may have different restrictions and requirements for a return to safe play in that region. Any changes to the game will be determined by those restrictions and Member requirements.

15. Will there be restrictions on the number of participants on the ice at once?

This will be determined by public health authority guidelines as well as facility guidelines and Member requirements. It will be important for hockey associations to work under these established guidelines.

16. Will in-person clinics be permitted for coaches or officials?

This will be determined by your Member, following public health authority guidelines.

17. How do we make sure our team has the most up-to-date information to return safely to the rink, knowing that public health authorities, our Member and our facility are always adding new information to follow as the pandemic evolves?

It is recommended that hockey associations and leagues assign a communications officer, who will be responsible to ensure all updated and relevant information is passed on to the officials, participants, volunteers and parents within their jurisdiction. Always verify current information on applicable websites and work with your designated communications officer.

18. As a parent, should I expect someone to provide me with information regarding the guidelines I need to meet to return to hockey?

In the process of returning to play, it is highly recommended that a meeting be organized by each hockey association to discuss important areas, including:

  • An overview of what to expect.
  • Safety steps put in place.
  • The role of parents and the hockey association in creating a safe and healthy environment.

19. Are we going to be covered by insurance if a claim is made against our hockey association pertaining to a COVID-19-related illness?

There is not a specific exclusion in the General Liability policy for damages caused by COVID-19-related illnesses. Liability claims against Hockey Canada always need to be proven by the party making the claim, so continuing to update and enforce your risk-management guidelines as new risks emerge, such as COVID-19, are imperative. Please understand that Hockey Canada and its Members are actively working on updating riskmanagement protocols related to return-to-play guidelines post-COVID-19.

20. Will coaches be permitted to be within two metres to help and support the player?

It is recommended that public health authority guidelines are adhered to and that instruction be given practicing physical distancing. Review your public health authority, Member and facility recommendations and requirements on the wearing of masks. Hockey Canada recommends that coaches wear a cloth mask at all times while in the facility including in the dressing room, on the bench and on the ice for practice.

The safety person or coach may need to be within two metres of a player if the player suffers an injury, but the safety person or coach should wear a mask and, as recommended in the Hockey Canada Safety Program, nonlatex gloves if treating a player for an injury.

21. Will teams be permitted to attend tournaments outside Canada, our province or territory?

The ability for any team to travel outside its geographic region to play hockey will depend on several factors, including public health authority guidelines, and travel restrictions, and will require the approval of the governing hockey bodies in your region and the region you wish to travel to. Note that provincial/ territorial guidelines and travel restrictions may also limit the ability to host local tournaments and your ability to accept tournament entries from teams outside your region.

22. Is a team permitted to travel to games/events by bus?

If you use a bus, there are steps that should be taken to ensure hygiene is practiced and public health authority guidelines and restrictions are met.

  • Ensure physical distancing in the bus so players are not sitting next to each other (physical distancing identifies two meters distance between passengers).
  • The bus should be professionally cleaned and disinfected thoroughly prior to each road trip and should be cleaned regularly during the trip. It is recommended to discuss with the bus company what its cleaning procedures are.
  • Discuss with the bus company the importance of the driver following all public health authority guidelines.
  • The driver should be last on and first off the bus.
  • Players and staff should wash their hands every time they are about to board the bus.
  • Players and staff should clean and disinfect their seat and surface area with provided disinfectant wipes after each stop and prior to each departure.
  • Hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes should be available on the bus as players enter and depart.
  • Players and staff should wash their hands every time they disembark the bus.
  • Have proper waste disposals on the bus to discard used disinfectant wipes.
  • It is recommended to have a barrier between the driver and the passengers.
  • If using the washroom on the bus ensure to wear a cloth mask and wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol based hand sanitizer afterwards.
  • Teams should request increased air circulation/ventilation on the bus. This can include opening windows on the bus when possible.
  • Try to avoid unnecessary stops.
  • It is recommended all passengers including the driver wear a cloth mask.

23. Are their specific restrictions related to travel out of my Province or Territory or across an international border?

Always refer to public health authority guidelines prior to leaving for any destination and ensure to follow them.

Monitor travel restrictions on the Government of Canada Travel Advisory website for any international destinations including the U.S.

Government of Canada Travel Advisories

24. Will parents be allowed in the stands to watch games?

This will be determined by public health authority, facility and Member guidelines. Families should be prepared to minimize the number of parents/guardians/spectators that attend in order to limit the number of people in the facility.

25. Should I disinfect my child’s hockey gear after each practice/game?

Some equipment should be washed (e.g. jerseys, pant shells, socks) after each practice/game, following manufacturer guidelines. It is important that players ensure all equipment is kept clean at all times.

26. Should I sanitize water bottles after each practice/game?

Bottles should be labelled and washed after each practice or game.

27. Will players be permitted to shower at the arena after a practice/game?

This will be determined by public health authority, Member and facility guidelines. It is recommended that players shower at home. If showers are used in the facility, physical distancing must be followed.

28. If a participant is currently isolating, can they come to the facility for hockey?

If a participant or person they are residing with is in isolation, neither the participant nor those they are residing with can be in the hockey environment until all public health authority requirements are met.

Public Health Authority Assessment Tools here.

29. My son/daughter currently sits in a car seat, and the car seat manufacturer recommends that hockey equipment not be worn while doing so. How can we come to the facility fully dressed for hockey?

It is important to follow guidelines specific to car seats and seat belts. It would be recommended to wear only equipment that can be worn safely under current laws or guidelines while sitting in a car seat or while wearing a seat belt. Hockey Canada recommends that players enter the facility in as much hockey equipment as possible, rather than changing together in dressing rooms where physical distancing may be difficult to maintain. When player safety might be compromised by riding in a car seat fully dressed in hockey equipment, the child should leave home partially dressed in their equipment, and should put on the remainder of the equipment after arriving at, but before entering, the facility.

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