(The Center Square) – The Amateur Hockey Association of Illinois reminded affiliated youth players Friday that they would be kicked off of their local teams if they accepted an invite to play for another team outside of the state.
That’s the reality for the tens of thousands of Illinois youth hockey players who have had their sport shut down by Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19. The classification of youth non-contact ice hockey remains at the Illinois Department of Public Health’s “higher risk” category. That means players cannot compete in matches, only practice.
When a group of hockey parents requested from Pritzker’s office any internal discussion about how non-contact hockey, different from what is seen in the NHL, came to be classified as more dangerous than basketball, Glenview parent Kelly Quinn received hundreds of largely redacted emails.
“Our whole goal was just to get the ear of whomever it was at Pritzker’s office to say, ‘Look, we think you maybe overlooked this. Come to an ice rink and let us show you why.’ But we’ve been unsuccessful up to this point,” she said.
Quinn and others have petitioned Pritzker’s office to reconsider hockey’s position in terms of risk. Doing so would allow youth non-contact hockey players and adults who play to compete in games.
“The protective equipment and the nature of the game in youth hockey is quite different than professional,” she said.
As of Friday, more than 12,000 people have signed her petition calling for hockey to be reclassified.
Pritzker said in a September news conference that he worried about exposure from sweat and saliva exchange as well as groups of players changing in locker rooms. As a result of the ban, many Illinois players have crossed state lines to play in Wisconsin or Indiana.
Quinn bristles at the thought of non-contact hockey being classified as a higher risk than basketball, something the daughter of IDPH director Dr. Ngozi Ezike plays.
“It’s absolutely insane to me that basketball could be medium risk and hockey is a higher risk but when your daughter plays, that’s what happens because this is Illinois politics,” she said.
She added that some have resisted pushing Pritzker too hard about youth hockey for fear that the governor will shut down the rinks in retaliation.
Pritzker’s office didn’t respond to questions about the higher-risk classification Friday.
Pritzker has also faced criticism for allowing his daughter to compete in out-of-state horseback riding competitions.