Letter: Darien High Girls' Ice Hockey parents issue plea to watch games in person

To the Editor:

We are writing on behalf of the Darien High School Girls’ Ice Hockey team to ask that parents of players (following the current sector rules) be permitted to watch home hockey games this season effective now.

The FCIAC Board of Directors voted to allow home team parents to attend hockey games in person in accordance with decisions made by individual school district and/or local health department regulations (following strict COVID protocols). However on Tuesday night, unlike New Canaan and other districts like West Haven, who are permitting parents to watch, Darien’s Superintendent Alan Addley said the district was still waiting to allow parent spectators in the rinks.

We all support the Addley and the district’s diligent COVID-19 efforts and continued concern for keeping everyone healthy and safe. However, we are pleading for him to allow parents to watch home games as permitted by the FCIAC and Gov. Lamont.

In Tuesday night’s meeting Dr. Addley tried to draw a comparison to having visitors in the schools. However, watching hockey in an ice rink is completely different. Visitors in schools would potentially come in contact with students and staff, but this is not the case at Darien Ice House (or any other rink for that matter). There is an eight-foot very thick plexiglass barrier between the rink and the stands. Additionally, every rink had continued to follow the strict state COVID-19 guidelines including designated seating in the stands which separate fans by at least six feet.

Ice hockey is considered a low risk sport (reinforced in Governor Lamont’s sector rules) and most of the players on the girls’ ice hockey team have been skating with their travel teams since August. Darien Youth Hockey League and the CT Ice Cats players and parents have been meticulous about adhering to the strict rules addressing COVID-19 and have successfully kept transmission at bay. These safety practices have translated into the high school hockey season.

We would like to emphasize the following points:

— The DHS Girls’ Ice Hockey team only has twenty-one players with 4 sets of siblings so there would be a very limited number of parents watching in person (34 if both parents, 21 if only one parent per player)

— Parents wouldn’t enter the rink until players are on the ice, and would leave before the players exit the ice.

— Parents would be required to wear an official lanyard with their child’s name and number, which would be checked at the entrance.

— The current capacity for Darien Ice House is 650 and they currently permit spectators (for travel and youth hockey games) to be seated spaced out on designated spots in the stands. Twenty-five percent capacity is 162 people — our proposal is far lower than that number.

— There is plenty of room at Darien Ice House for parents to be spread 10 to 20 feet apart even if two parents per player are in attendance.

— Other school districts, including New Canaan and West Haven have agreed to allow parents to attend their children’s high school games.

— Hockey is, in our opinion, the safest sport in regards to COVID transmission. In addition to face masks, players are covered head to toe in hockey gear, helmets and gloves and do not utilize the locker rooms.

· Our request is consistent with Governor Lamont’s return to sports protocol stating: “Only the necessary number of adults to hold practices and competitions shall attend, including no more than one parent/guardian per youth athlete, so long as the venue allows for six feet of social distancing of spectators, who must maintain social distancing and wear face coverings throughout the activity. Adult club/recreational sports, with participants who are aged 21 years and older, shall not have spectators.”

We hope that Dr. Addley will reverse his decision and will allow the Darien High School Girls’ Ice Hockey parents to watch our girls play! This abbreviated winter sport season is especially important to the seniors’ parents who have been supporting their daughters play hockey since they were in kindergarten.

Once again, we are grateful to all that Dr. Addley and the BOE have done for the District, but we are begging him to reconsider his decision and to let us support our players! Go Wave Puck!

Erin Bellissimo, Kristin Edwards, Amy Kniffin and Heather Raymond

Parents of the DHS Girls Ice Hockey Captains, on behalf of all the Darien Blue Wave Girls Hockey Parents