On Thursday, seven Northeast governors, including Maine’s Janet Mills, agreed to halt interstate competitions between public and private schools and youth hockey effective Nov. 14 until at least the end of 2020 as coronavirus cases continue to rise across the United States.

Maine reported 194 new cases on Thursday.

Also included in the agreement are Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont.

“The seven states will suspend interstate competitions for public and private schools and youth hockey effective this Saturday, November 14, 2020 through at minimum December 31, 2020,” a portion of the joint statement said. “The prohibition will not impact interstate collegiate, professional, or U.S. national team hockey activities, which will remain subject to existing health and safety protocols and/or restrictions.

“As public health data continues to evolve, the states will reassess the need for continued restrictions on interstate sports activities.”

The statement doesn’t explicitly say junior hockey is a part of the interstate shutdown.

Junior hockey is for players age 16-20, and junior hockey in the United States is a primary feeder system for NCAA Division I and III along with college club programs in the American Collegiate Hockey Association.

Maine Department of Health and Human Services has said junior hockey falls under the Maine’s Community Sports Checklist, which youth, club and high school sports should utilize. Hockey is listed as a moderate-risk sport and last Friday DHHS said all youth, club and high school winter sports should stop all activities until December and games shouldn’t resume until Jan. 11 at the earliest.

Junior hockey teams say they are still looking for clarity.

“What’s a club sport?” Twin City Thunder co-owner and NCDC coach Dan Hodge said Saturday night after a 4-2 win over the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs. “Again, we are back to square one with this conversation. If they tell us to stop, then we will stop.”

Hodge could not be reached Thursday.

The North American Hockey League, a Tier II junior hockey league under the USA Hockey umbrella in which the Maine Nordiques of Lewiston are a part of, felt Thursday’s announcement from the governors did not target junior hockey.

“The NAHL is not youth hockey,” NAHL spokesman Alex Kyrias said an email to the Sun Journal.

Nordiques head coach Nolan Howe had no comment on Thursday’s announcement after Thursday’s 3-2 loss to the Northeast Generals. Nordiques owner Darryl Antonacci couldn’t be reached.

Maine DHHS did say Thursday’s announcement with seven governors does include junior hockey.

“Maine’s COVID-19 Prevention Checklist for Community Sports already prohibits competition between hockey teams, including junior hockey teams, from different geographic areas until January 11, 2021,” Maine DHHS spokeswoman Jackie Farwell said in an email to the Sun Journal. “The joint announcement below is consistent with this policy.”

The United States Premier Hockey League, which is not under the USA Hockey umbrella at the junior hockey level, is the organization that the Twin City Thunder of Auburn has teams in, including the USPHL’s National Collegiate Development Conference and Premier League.

The USPHL did not respond to comment Thursday, but released a statement on the USPHL website Wednesday reaffirming their commitment to finishing the 2020-21 season.

“The United States Premier Hockey League is committed to completing the 2020-21 season and will do so while working within State and Federal Guidelines to ensure the safest hockey environment possible for its players, coaches, and spectators.

“The USPHL Board of Governors will undertake a series of virtual meetings in January to review further adjustments to the USPHL’s division schedules, including the possibility of extending the season to ensure the completion of the season.”

The Twin City Thunder NCDC team, according the USPHL website, has four games remaining in 2020 with all of them coming against the two New Hampshire-based organization, the Jr. Monarchs (Hooksett) and Northern Cyclones (Hudson).

The Thunder are scheduled to travel to Hooksett to face the Monarchs on Nov. 14 while the Monarchs come to Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn on Nov. 20. On Nov. 22, the Cyclones host the Thunder in Hudson while the Cyclones travel to Auburn on Dec. 5.

There was a report on Monday from the New England Hockey Journal that the four Massachusetts-based NCDC teams will only be playing each other in the coming weeks.

Maine DHHS feels stopping competition and traveling among junior hockey teams is important, as the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention is looking at COVID-19 cases involving the Maine Nordiques organization.

“I’d also note that yesterday Maine CDC opened an outbreak associated with the Maine Nordiques, which currently includes four cases,” Farwell also said in her email to the Sun Journal. “The suspension of competition is critical to limiting the spread of COVID-19 in Maine and across the region. That is why multiple governors of both parties across New England reached this conclusion together.”

Howe also did not want to comment on the COVID cases within the organization.

Maine CDC wouldn’t go into details if the cases involving the Nordiques are within the NAHL team, the Maine Nordiques Prep Academy or the Maine Nordiques youth program.

“Maine CDC opened an outbreak investigation associated with the Maine Nordiques on Wednesday, November 11, after determining that at least three cases involving individuals associated with the organization were linked epidemiologically,” Maine CDC spokesman Robert Long said. “The investigation is ongoing. Out of respect for patient privacy, Maine CDC does not share information about individual cases.”

The Twin City Thunder also had a few cases of COVID-19 earlier this season that saw a handful of games postponed.


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