N.L. athletes just happy to be back in action, despite lack of games, groups say

·2 min read
Sports facilities around the province have lain dormant for weeks after a coronavirus outbreak pulled the plug on group activities. That will start to change on Saturday. (John Gushue/CBC - image credit)
Sports facilities around the province have lain dormant for weeks after a coronavirus outbreak pulled the plug on group activities. That will start to change on Saturday. (John Gushue/CBC - image credit)

After a coronavirus outbreak that whipped through Newfoundland and Labrador's most populous region last month — fuelled, at least in part, by team sports — the province is now slowly repealing its orders to suspend all recreational activities.

On Wednesday, the chief medical officer of health said teams could begin training and practising once again this weekend.

Competitions and games between teams, however, are still off the table, at least until sports leagues and associations submit "return-to-sport" safety plans to government, outlining procedures to ensure arenas and fields don't become a breeding ground for COVID-19.

Troy Croft, who leads the non-profit agency Sport NL, said young people, parents and athletes had all eagerly awaited Wednesday's announcement.

"I think we got there obviously a little quicker than we thought," Croft said. "A lot of people rely on this — not only for social interaction, but it's good for everybody's mental health."

Troy Croft, executive director of Sport Newfoundland and Labrador, says athletes had been eagerly awaiting Wednesday's announcement.
Troy Croft, executive director of Sport Newfoundland and Labrador, says athletes had been eagerly awaiting Wednesday's announcement.(CBC)

Timing isn't on the side of indoor winter sports, which are nearing season's end, but Croft said there may still be time for a couple of playoff rounds.

"We're still working through that with the government," he told CBC News.

While they wait for more details, teams can go ahead with drills and practices without submitting an application as of Saturday, he added.

He warned, however, that athletes and coaches need to stick to the new public health rules, which clearly prohibit post-game socializing and encourage players to wear masks and stay out of change rooms.

"We've seen how quickly things can turn," Croft said. "Once you have your plan in place, make sure [you're] following it and complying with all the guidelines, because that's key."

Ryan Garland, executive director of Baseball NL, called Wednesday's announcement a "best-case scenario" for his sport. The possibility of indoor training will allow players to be well prepared for a mid-June start date.

Garland's optimistic baseball teams can compete by then.

"Almost selfishly, the timing for baseball hasn't really been any better than it could have been, given the very weird, unfortunate circumstances we're dealing with," Garland said.

Those dependent on winter months and indoor arenas aren't so lucky. But Jack Lee, president of Hockey NL, is trying to look on the bright side, and says the organization is looking at how it might be able to extend the season for some hockey clubs.

"Just to get our kids back on the ice … this is welcome news for us," he said. "We got to be patient."

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