The president of Edmonton Hockey has apologized for the tone of a memo regarding COVID-19 regulations after various hockey organizations raised concerns over what they argued was a heavy handed approach.
On Wednesday, Edmonton Hockey president Joe Spatafora posted a notice online saying organizations would be fined if they were caught not following return to play guidelines aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19.
“Violations will result in the team’s home organization being fined $1,000 and the head coach being suspended for the balance of the season,” wrote Spatafora. “Also remember that if the infraction is due to a parent or spectator the penalties will be applied to the coach and home association. Also be advised that all fines and removals will not be appealable, and the decision of Hockey Edmonton is final.”
Spatafora said they had received 15 reports of people not following the regulations on the ice. He said there have also been reports of people refusing to leave the spectator areas and people not listening to arena personnel.
The posting was met with criticism from various hockey organizations in the city, including the Edmonton Girls Hockey Association (EGHA), which issued a response saying they had received no prior notice of the memo. President Aimee Skye sent a message to EGHA members on Thursday noting they have not received any complaints about their teams.
“We have many concerns about the recent decisions made by Hockey Edmonton and the manner in which they communicated them,” wrote Skye. “Of course, safety and restriction-following are paramount. But the validity of the complaints, the fairness of the penalties and processes announced tonight, and the alienating tone of the memo are problematic.”
On Thursday, Spataforta issued an updated note online apologizing for the tone of his original memo.
“I have heard you loud and clear. I apologize. The tone of my message yesterday was wrong,” wrote Spatafora. “This is not a witch hunt. We have always strived for an education-first process and we understand the fluidity of the rules makes it challenging to continually adapt to changing regulations. This enforcement is geared towards anyone who chooses to repeatedly ignore the Hockey Edmonton return to play guidelines.”
Spatafora said Hockey Edmonton has received reports of behaviours that could potentially put their members’ health at risk and they are responsible for creating a safe sport to play.
“We need to follow the guidelines in order to help drive down the number of COVID-19 cases. We are working towards a return to game action and the last thing we want is behaviour that could derail everyone’s desire to get back to playing games,” said Spatafora. “My letter went too far too fast but I wanted to emphasize we must stop any looseness with the rules.”