'We're doing what we feel is best': OMHA not backtracking on vaccination policy for players, coaches
The Ontario Minor Hockey Association doesn't plan to backtrack on its COVID-19 vaccination policy for eligible players and coaches.
OMHA executive director Ian Taylor said the board will refund registration fees for families of unvaccinated players, but it wouldn’t be financially feasible for the association to compensate families for the cost of unused equipment.
“Players that aren’t able to participate, our association is working with them in terms of [refunding] registration fees,” Taylor said. “The ability to reimburse equipment, that’s something we can certainly look at but realistically it’s something we couldn’t do for all parents, truthfully.”
The OMHA announced a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy for coaches, volunteers and eligible players 12 and older.
Players in that age group must be fully immunized by Oct. 31, or be ineligible for the season.
Parents of unvaccinated players who purchased new equipment for pre-season clinics and training have asked for compensation. Some say the mandate is discriminatory and goes against provincial guidelines.
"I'm a parent myself, I understand and I'm also not oblivious to the fact that we understand the cost of playing our sport," Taylor said.
Taylor mentioned the OMHA released its vaccination mandate prior to the start of the season and before the province released its vaccination requirements to enter recreational facilities.
He said the association wasn’t willing to backtrack on its original policy and the objective was to make the safest possible environment or its participants
“We made the decision that we felt was the right one, with the information that we had at that time. Taylor said. “We’re doing what we feel is best for the safety of our participants and our communities. We want to limit future disruptions so we don’t get in those situations of limited numbers or shutdowns and the impact that had on our young people for being physically active.”
Taylor stated that in a perfect world parents would have been given better notice of the vaccination policy further ahead of the season, but it was difficult to finalize the framework in the midst of an evolving pandemic.
Fully immunized players will only need to show proof of vaccination when they register for the season. Registered players will not need to validate their immunization status once they’re on a team roster.
Taylor says more clarity is needed to help families understand the differences between the province’s vaccination mandates compared to the OMHA’s policy. He added that families often complain to the association about vaccination requirements that are set by the government, not the OMHA.
"At the end of the day, it's safety. Let's mitigate disruptions," he said. "We respect choices of families and hockey's here now and hopefully it will be going forward."
Any screening processes to enter hockey arenas will be organized by each particular facility or municipality. Parents and spectators do not fall under the OMHA’s vaccine requirements.