Let’s Talk About the Alberta Sports Ban

This is a sports blog, so I will do my best to not bring politics into this.

We need to talk about three things: The Alberta Government’s decision to shut down* sports* for two weeks*, the general mindset towards coronavirus in this province, and this picture:

From @_Ruptown_ on Twitter

I’m not going to get into how we as a province should address the COVID-19 Pandemic. I’m not a policy analyst or infectious disease specialist. What I do know is that the decision from the Alberta government was at best inconsistent and at worst horribly misinformed.

Any sane member of the hockey community will agree that COVID-19 is an issue that needs to be taken seriously, and it has been. Teams and leagues are doing what they can to prevent the spread. Masks, social distancing, and contact tracing are examples of measures that have been put in place to save the hockey season. Other sports are doing the same. Hockey is a contact sport, but that doesn’t mean that figure skaters are immune from transmission. I counted at least one participant not wearing a mask. I’d imagine these skaters share a dressing room. What would happen if, God forbid, a skater took a spill – which is not an uncommon occurence – and collided with another skater? Is this not the same incident the Ontario government argued was the biggest risk of spread in hockey?

This double standard is the root of most people’s frustration. While hockey is shut down for two weeks, kids have to watch images like this one. Other athletes are allowed to train and compete. People can visit bars, casinos, and places of worship. If shutting down group activities is an effective defense against COVID-19 (which I believe it is), shouldn’t we be shutting down all group activities? How does drawing an arbitrary distinction between activities make any sense?

The decision handed down doesn’t even completely agree with itself. One of the asterisks above is that professional, junior and collegiate sports were exempt from the ban. Somehow this meant that the men’s Alberta Junior Hockey League could continue play, but the women’s Alberta Junior Female Hockey League was shut down. Bothe leagues represent the highest level of Junior hockey for their respective genders administered by Hockey Alberta.

None of this is to say that shutting down sports was the wrong decision. In fact, it is a good course of action to take. But just focusing on some sports while allowing others to continue, along with bars, restaurants, casinos, churches, temples, mosques, and house parties not only will not be effective (there has yet to be a major outbreak associated with minor sports), but it sends the wrong message. Kids that are playing the game they love are being punished while the people responsible for spreading the virus are allowed to continue living their lives.

I am more than happy to play my part in controlling this disease. If two weeks without sports (my primary method of employment) is what it takes to save lives, to stop people from dying, then I am willing to do so. But if we want to get this pandemic under control, it can’t just be us.