John Cunningham has discovered one good thing when it comes to a high school winter sports season hit by the coronavirus.
Cunningham, the Section III hockey chairman and former New Hartford coach, had in the past been unable to reach a meeting of the section officials in Syracuse due to work commitments and the travel involved. The use of video conferencing has changed that, giving him the opportunity to participate in those meetings.
If anything positive came out of this COVID thing, it’s the fact that you can meet those (officials) through Zoom, Cunningham said this week. Now I can slip into that meeting and hear things and find out what people think. It’s that easy. That’s something you probably stick to.
Cunningham and officials in Section III have their share of things to discuss regarding a hockey season postponed to 2021. According to a decision by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association this week, hockey should not practice or begin playing until January. 4. at the earliest. High school wrestling, basketball, and volleyball for boys and girls are also affected by the decision.
Hockey is one of the sports considered to be at high risk for coronavirus by New York State. Gov. Andrew Cuomo had previously said that high-risk sports could not compete until January. He will have to give the go-ahead for those sports to start playing games.
Cunningham remains hopeful for a season, even if it is shortened. Section III has also said there will be no section tournament for any of the winter sports.
I think we need the (coronavirus) numbers to lower. I’m sure the governor will not release winter sports when schools close. He’s not going to admit people into ice rinks if you can’t keep kids in school, Cunningham said of the recent peak of cases in the state. We really need to get the numbers back as a group so that the governor feels comfortable playing sports indoors. …
We were grateful for everything we get this year. I hope there is something for these kids to look back on and say we have at least 10 or a dozen games.
He noted that hockey is unique compared to other winter sports in that players have their equipment covered from the top of their heads down to their skates. He said the emphasis will be on not sharing.
Aside from the sport that needs approval to compete, Cunningham noted that officials will have to sort out logistics such as schedules, travel, and guidelines on ice rinks. He noted that some schools in Section III have teamed up teams with players from different schools and will have to determine if play can continue if a school has a problem. They consider many aspects in an effort to make it all as smooth and sleek as possible.
In a normal season there are six boys crews from the Utica area in Section III. Clinton, which usually has players from at least a few districts, is one of five girls’ hockey teams in Section III.
Are there so many things that affect being able to play games? Once you’ve decided you can or can’t, how do you deal with the ripple effects that result? said Cunningham, who has contacted officials and gauged their interest in the season. If the window remains open to play, discuss it well and try to accommodate the governor, the local communities, and the sports directors. Just do what we can.
Ben Birnell is a sports reporter for the Observer-Dispatch. For unlimited access to his stories, subscribe at the top of the uticaod.com homepage or activate your digital account today. Email Ben Birnell at [email protected]
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