Hockey players traveling to Ohio rinks to practice
By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
TRENTON – City Councilman William LeFevre said during the online July 20 council meeting that he is receiving phone calls from city residents asking when the ice arena will be reopened.
He said the governor is doing a “great job,” but he doesn’t think she understands the needs of Trenton’s hockey players.
“The kids in Trenton are playing hockey now,” LeFevre said. “They are driving to Ohio to practice, they are going to Canton, Michigan, to practice and to different rinks in Michigan to practice.”
He said Trenton’s facility, with three rinks, if opened for practice, could allow players could utilize separate doors, and he said the youth should be allowed to practice on the ice.
Parks and Recreation Director Joann Gonyea confirmed that there are ice arenas in the state of Michigan which are open.
“Many are private arenas,” she said. “We did receive word that St. Clair Shores, which is a municipal arena, is open, and we understand that Southgate is planning to open Aug. 1, so people are playing hockey, they are practicing, and they are going to other arenas.”
She said Ohio is under different executive orders.
“Their arenas have been open for probably at least a month and a half or longer,” Gonyea said.
LeFevre asked, if the hockey players are going to practice anyway, why the city can’t open its rink, and implement social distancing, use different doors and allow practices, not games.
Mayor Steven Rzeppa said that as of right now, with no formal guidelines set, to his knowledge, by the Michigan High School Athletic Association or the Michigan Amateur Hockey Association, he is not comfortable opening the ice arena.
“I understand that, yes, there are people doing it, and it is their prerogative, and that is something we can’t control, but I am not trying to make any kind of statement by doing so,” he said.
Rzeppa said there were some high-profile cases of places that remained open during the pandemic, which worked out fine for some, and not so well for others.
“I am not going to be the one that says that I know better than the epidemiologists, that I know better than the department of Health and Human Services,” he said. “So that is not something that I am comfortable with right now.”
Rzeppa said the ice rink reopening may be evaluated on a week-by-week basis.
“There is so much unknown right now, but I am not looking to have Trenton be the feature story on Channel 4 news about how we are defining these orders,” he said.
Rzeppa said if parents want to take their children to play hockey in other communities, he understands their decision.
“I know that it hurts us financially,” he said. “I recognize that, but I think, in the broader scope of things, that it is a sad reality that we are facing right now, in the current pandemic.
“It is something that I am not looking to go out of our way when I have no background in medicine, no background in infectious diseases, to be able to say that, yes, this is 100 percent safe. I don’t know that.”
Rzeppa said if more information comes to their attention, from the MAHA or the MHSAA, or other organizations, which recommend precautions to implement, he would review them, but to his knowledge, the other ice rinks which are opening are doing so based on the restrictions and limitations arbitrarily put forth by the administrators of those cities.
“While I have a lot of confidence in our administrative team, and while I feel very good about the job that they are doing, I also recognize that we don’t have any medical doctors or people with PhDs on staff that studied those type of things,” he said. “So, as it stands right now, I have no plans to ask them to open up our rinks any time soon. It doesn’t make me feel good to say that – I don’t want to say that – but from the same token, I feel I can’t sleep soundly and feel like we are doing so responsibly at this point.”
Rzeppa said he recognizes that hockey is played year-round in Michigan, but he feels that the city would need some framework before it could consider reopening the ice arena.