AUGUSTA — Youth hockey in Maine will be restricted to in-state competition over the next several weeks after governors from seven Northeastern states announced the suspension of interstate play.
Governors Janet Mills, Charlie Baker (R-Mass.), Ned Lamont (D-Conn.), Phil Murphy (D-N.J.), Gina Raimondo (D-R.I.), Phil Scott (R-Vt.) and Chris Sununu (R-N.H.) made the announcement in a statement issued Thursday morning. The decision puts interstate youth hockey off the table for the remainder of the calendar year.
The announcement follows COVID-19 outbreaks health officials in Northeastern states say have been linked to participation in the sport. New Hampshire and Massachusetts reported more than 100 cases each stemming from hockey activities, and officials in Vermont have traced 90 cases to activity at a single ice rink in the capital city of Montpelier.
“In response to recent coronavirus outbreaks associated with the conduct of interstate youth hockey activities, [we] will support a regional approach to interstate competitions,” the governors said in a joint statement. “As case numbers increase in many states across the country, it is critical that neighboring states coordinate a regional approach to limit further community spread of the virus.”
Youth hockey games in Maine were put on hold for two weeks in October after an official who worked eight games tested positive for COVID-19. Games resumed the weekend of Oct. 24-25 despite objections from state officials.
State officials have expressed concerns throughout the fall over hockey leagues’ willingness to abide by community sports guidelines. In an Oct. 9 letter to the Maine Amateur Hockey Association, Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew warned of possible consequences should the organization fail to abide by said guidelines in the future.
“If non-compliance persists, and spread of COVID-19 through community sports appears to be occurring, we will not hesitate to harden what had been strong recommendations into stringent requirements and take all reasonable and practicable action to enforce them to protect the health and safety of Maine people,” Lambrew said.
The ban on interstate play applies only at the youth level and will not affect collegiate, professional or United States national teams.