Parents Balk at Ban on Fans at HS Winter Sports

Andy Berg Headshot

The parents of high school athletes in Massachusetts are pushing back on plans to ban fans from all winter sporting events.

A group of athletic directors, principals and superintendents from the Middlesex League decided last week that with COVID-19 cases on the rise, the prospect of welcoming fans to ice hockey, basketball, gymnastics and swimming events was just too great. 

“There were a million different facility issues. Schools are moving storage out of gyms just to have basketball. In all actuality we’re watching cases go up, and while that’s happening we’re trying to give everything we can to student-athletes safely,” Burlington athletic director Shaun Hart told the Boston Herald. “Parents assume that just because we’re playing hockey, they’re obligated to be there, too. They’re not.” 

Some parents want the policy reconsidered, asking that the league follow guidelines issued by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs guidelines, which limits guests to two adults and siblings of a participating player and are only allowed if the inclusion of spectators, plus in-game participants, does not exceed 50 percent of the venue’s capacity.

“We’re not asking for anything extraordinary,” said Matt Save, the father of an athlete who started a group called “Parents of Middlesex League Winter Athletes." “All things being equal, let us in. For hockey there are 12 teams that use 10 rinks. One does not allow spectators, all the others allow either one or two for youth hockey. If they let them in for youth hockey they should do the same for high school hockey.”

The parents have started circulated a petition asking for the policy to be rescinded that has received 2,400 signatures. They’re also getting their kids involved in the movement.

“It just doesn’t make sense how parents are allowed to attend youth games, but are unable to attend a high school hockey game in many of the same rinks,” said Arlington girls hockey captain Makayla Doherty. “As a senior, my parents have been a huge part of my hockey journey and I hope they can have the opportunity to watch my last season.” 

Hart has said the league has no intention of reconsidering, noting that the league has invested in technology that will allow all fans to watch event via a streaming platform.

“Why would we bring anybody in that could risk our students a chance at a season,” Hart said. “We have so many to watch content from our league’s athletic events — games, interviews, you name it we have it all.”

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