FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Hockey Canada released its COVID-19 vaccine policy on Friday, requiring all participants in international or national events to have the necessary dose(s) of a Health Canada-approved vaccine at least 14 days prior to the start of an event.

This policy, effective October 16th, 2021, applies to all events directly sanctioned by Hockey Canada, but its 13 members — including BC Hockey  — will be instructed to follow provincial or regional standards.

“Essentially, any event that is directly controlled by Hockey Canada, including World Juniors, the Women’s National U18 Championships which would have happened in Dawson Creek, all the way down to the Telus Cup,” said Spencer Sharkey, Communications Manager with Hockey Canada.

“It doesn’t trickle all the way down to every minor hockey association in the country, but with that being said, we have switched out position a little bit where we are now strongly recommending that our members and then down to the local hockey associations do implement mandatory vaccination policies. But this specific policy and this statement do not directly impact minor hockey.”

Sharkey says the governing body’s main priority is getting back to a regular schedule, something they have not had since March 2020.

“I think what’s happening with this vaccination policy, this is our road back to that. Obviously, it’s not going to be a snap of the fingers and we’re back. This is the way to get back to having all those events, making sure that they run safely and smoothly, and making sure that we get through them and provide opportunities for players, whether they’re international or national events.”

Sharkey admits that the geography of Canada makes it difficult to implement one policy for the entire country, but he says it’s a work in progress.

“It is kind of different in different parts of the country, which makes it a bit more challenging. We’re still working with our members, whether they want to implement a similar policy, whether they want to continue as is, but obviously, still have to navigate the pandemic. It’s about supporting them through that process.”

Numerous events have been cancelled during the pandemic, including the National Women’s U18 Championship in Dawson Creek, set to take place from October 31st to November 6th. Sharkey says Hockey Canada has a great relationship with Dawson Creek, and while there are no immediate plans to have a ‘make-up’ event, Hockey Canada would like to return as soon as possible.

“We’ve had a number of events there, and they’re great hosts. We really enjoy going there, it’s a great facility, but this was just one of those unfortunate situations that neither party can really control. We would love to have events, whether it’s the National Women’s Under 18 or a different event in Dawson Creek as soon as we’re able to. Obviously, they’re interested in hosting, we’re interested in going there, so I think both parties will find a solution.”

The silver lining is that preparations for a future event have mostly been completed, says Sharkey.

“You get to a point that’s so close to the event, and then you have to cancel it. It’s tough because all that stuff is already there and ready to go. It definitely makes it a little easier to go back and say, we have all this framework, we can swap it out and it’s 2022 instead of 2021.”

Sharkey finished by saying how important these events are for smaller hockey communities.

“These events are great for communities, especially smaller ones that maybe don’t get as much national attention as some of the other places, but always put in so much time and effort, and get rewarded for it.”