New York State Youth Hockey Championships Will Go On, But Without Spectators

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BUFFALO, NY (WBFO) – As a means to curb the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus, youth teams competing in the New York State Amateur Hockey Association state tournaments at three Western New York venues this weekend will still be able to play, but not in front of any fans including family members.

Northtown Center at Amherst is one of three Western New York rink facilities where the New York State Amateur Hockey Association will host state youth championship tournaments this weekend. As a coronavirus-related precaution, the games will be played without spectators. Credit Michael Mroziak, WBFO

Although no cases of COVID-19 coronavirus had been identified in Erie or Niagara Counties as of midday Tuesday, NYSAHA explains in a written statement on its website it had been instructed by the Town of Amherst to exclude spectators from all weekend games held at the Northtown Center, one of the facilities hosting this weekend’s 14-Under, 15, 16-Under and 18-Under state championship brackets.

As stated: “Following up on our communication yesterday, March 9, 2020, due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), NYSAHA has been directed by the Town of Amherst that the NYSAHA Tournaments this weekend may proceed but only without any spectators present in the Northtown building, which (as a) safety precaution the NYSAHA Board has extended to all three facilities.”

Those other venues are Cornerstone Arena in Lockport and Hyde Park Ice Pavilion in Niagara Falls. The NYSAHA website did not make clear whether the ban would remain in effect for additional state championship games scheduled the following weekend at all three facilities.

According to NYSAHA officials, families will be able to watch the games online, at no charge, via the streaming video service Hockey TV.

Teams from across New York State are scheduled to compete in this weekend’s games, including teams from Westchester and Nassau Counties, where COVID-19 has been positively identified. It was unknown as of Tuesday evening whether those teams would remain in the tournament. Additional cases of COVID-19 in both counties were announced Tuesday by Governor Cuomo, but he emphasized that the new cases involved individuals who have associations with patients who previously tested positive for the virus.

Last week, NYSAHA president Joe Baudo told WBFO his organization would follow the advice of health officials, though they were already moving ahead with a modification on the ice, changing the traditional handshake.

“Basically, the players will leave their gloves on and fist-bump each other as they go through the line, instead of taking gloves off and shaking hands,” Baudo said last week. “Just some minor things that we can have them do to help make sure everybody stays healthy and safe.”