The Windsor Minor Hockey league wants the local health unit to be more lenient and allow youth 12 and older to play the sport if they only have one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit is requiring players and spectators 12 and older to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 when entering a recreational facility as of Friday. The health unit released the order Wednesday.
In its letter it said, "Activities related to organized sports, particularly contact sports and high intensity fitness and recreation put participants at greater risk for COVID-19 transmission due to heavy breathing, close contact and length of contact and lack of personal protective equipment."
For this reason, it said vaccination can "greatly reduce the risk."
But the policy requires the person to get one shot, wait two weeks before getting a second shot and then wait another two weeks — during this time, the player will be benched.
These rules go beyond what the province and the city have imposed.
The province is not requiring kids aged 12 to 17 to be vaccinated if they want to play. After that came out, the city made it mandatory for them to be vaccinated, but gave them until mid-November and allowed kids to play in the meantime.
"It's cruel and unusual," said Windsor Minor Hockey League president Josh Pinese about WECHU's requirements.
"Like I said these kids have been through enough, some of these kids were never going to get vaccinated, but did so to play hockey ... and now they're being told it's not good enough."
In the hopes of getting WECHU's attention and having them rescind the order, the league started an online petition.
So far the petition has more than 600 signatures in three days.
Pinese says about 75 out of 600 kids in Windsor Minor Hockey will be benched because of this rule.
It's unclear how many youth in total will be impacted as many other groups and leagues use recreation facilities across Windsor-Essex.
"The main thing that we're asking for from WECHU is to really reconsider and be more lenient," Pinese said.
"We're just pleading with them to allow these kids to play the sport."