In all six New England states and New Jersey, kids are now playing competitive ice hockey against other teams from within their own states. In Pennsylvania youth ice hockey continues against both in-state and out-of-state opponents. While there are not competitive ice hockey games in Illinois, teams from Illinois are playing games in nearby states including Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan and elsewhere in the heartland, South and West, hockey continues, despite Covid-19 case rates and deaths in many of these areas well beyond those in New York.
In New York, competitive ice hockey is currently not permitted. However, teams from all 62 counties of New York except Erie County are able to go and play competitive ice hockey games in neighboring states (i.e., currently Pennsylvania).
Thus, Erie County appears to be the only county in the nation in which: a) youth are not permitted to play competitive ice hockey games locally, and b) the county health department and schools are actively interfering with youth going and playing competitive hockey games in other states.
There is nothing particularly remarkable about the public health situation in Erie County that supports this level of interference in children’s lives more so than every other county in the nation. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, with support from Gale Burstein, MD of the Erie County Health Department, are fueling anger among citizens, and Cuomo and Poloncarz are alienating their own base, turning a historically blue county in a blue state to red.
As it stands now, childhood inactivity, obesity, depression, are being viewed as collateral damage in a local overreaction to public health concerns and over-control of citizens. It is time for these leaders to take a fresh look at matters and work with the New York State Amateur Hockey Association to make some immediate changes that support youth hockey competition in one manner or another, so that Erie County is no longer the only county in the nation in which youth do not have a way to play competitive hockey.
Michael Santa Maria