Coaches, parents upset with spectator restrictions in Halifax region

·2 min read

Some hockey fans in the Halifax area feel they are getting a raw deal.

The municipality recently boosted the number of spectators allowed into its arenas to watch hockey games, but many feel the numbers should be higher.

"I'm all for COVID restrictions, but the numbers just don't make sense," said Tim Boyce, head coach and director of hockey operations for the Halifax Macs of the Nova Scotia U18 Hockey League.

The Macs play their home games at the Halifax Forum, which has a capacity of 5,000 fans. But under Halifax Regional Municipality COVID restrictions, only 100 spectators are permitted to attend their games. That number increased from 50, as of Nov. 1.

Gary Manning
Gary Manning

Over the weekend, the Macs played two games in Berwick, N.S., where a maximum of 400 spectators are permitted at the 1,000-seat Kings Mutual Century Centre.

Boyce said the disparity in numbers isn't fair.

"For us to put on a home game it's about $1,000, and that's money that's coming out of our parents' pockets," said Boyce. "This is high-level hockey and we can't even get scouts in the stands right now."

According to the municipality, staffing and the size of the venue is factored into the decision on the number of spectators.

"Although provincial restrictions do currently allow for up to 200 spectators, not every venue can safely accommodate those numbers at this time," Halifax municipal spokesperson Maggie-Jane Spray said in an email.

Paul Palmeter/CBC
Paul Palmeter/CBC

The arena in Berwick, also known as the Appledome, has been able welcome 400 fans at a time by splitting them into two 200-person bubbles that have their own entrances, exits and washrooms. The seats are also regularly cleaned.

"It's a battery-operated mist machine and it takes us about 10-12 minutes to mist all our seats down," said Appledome manager Bob Best. "It's a little more effort, but at least we're making it work."

Crowds at Maritime Junior Hockey League games in Berwick, Truro, Yarmouth and Bridgewater over the weekend all saw more than 300 fans in attendance.

While Halifax boosted the numbers at some arenas over the weekend, the spectator count remained the same at the Eastern Shore Recreation Centre in Musquodoboit Harbour. Only 50 fans can attend games at the arena. The figure is so low that many parents are not allowed into the building to watch their kids play.

"Every parent here in minor hockey and the high school league feels like this is a case of micro-management," said Michele Turcotte, whose son Sean plays for the Eastern Shore District High School hockey team. "It's wrong, it's just not fair."

The municipal councillor for the area, David Hendsbee, has heard from many disgruntled parents and has asked for a review of the numbers.