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Erie Co. officials concerned over COVID-19 cases in youth hockey

Posted at 11:51 PM, Dec 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-21 23:51:42-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Erie County officials are concerned about COVID-19 outbreaks in youth hockey.

“It’s concerning because you know that coaches sometimes coach multiple teams, or parents have multiple children on multiple teams, different age groups,” Poloncarz said.

On Monday, County Executive Mark Poloncarz said he's aware of multiple positive COVID-19 cases in three organizations, the Buffalo Regals, Southtowns Stars, and Clarence Mustangs.

Michael Sweeney, the Buffalo Regals Club President, said the organization has had at least a dozen positive COVID-19 cases. He said four of the club's teams are in quarantine.

The Erie County Health Department closed one of the club's rinks over the weekend. A Regals team had a scrimmage at Holiday Twin Rinks in Cheektowaga. Youth ice hockey scrimmages are not allowed under state guidelines.

"In this case here, he had his own team and five or six kids from another Regals team on two different benches, serving as two different teams, and you had five kids from each team playing hockey," Answeeney said. "That's a scrimmage, the only thing that they didn’t have was a scoreboard turned on.”

Answeeney said that coach is suspended. He said the organization, which has about 900 players, stresses to teams that the COVID-19 pandemic is a dangerous situation.

“As far as teams go, it’s difficult," Answeeney said. "You can tell them what to do, but really if nobody enforces the rules they do what they want.”

Rich Vittoria, the Southtown Stars League President, said there have been ten positive cases since the season began in late summer, with the most recent case on Sunday. He said teams are taken off the ice for 14 days following a positive case.

Once we've quarantined them, no other instances of positive cases have come from that team,” Vittoria said.

The county said it's working with the owner of Holiday Twin Rinks on a safety plan to open back up.