Aspen adult hockey leagues suspended due to lack of mask wearing in games

Public meeting is scheduled for Wednesday to address issue

The Aspen Ice Garden as seen on Friday, Dec. 10, 2021.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Aspen’s adult hockey leagues have been put on hiatus as of Friday by city officials due to players not complying with the indoor mask mandate in its public facilities.

League games are held at both the Aspen Ice Garden and the Aspen Recreation Center, and masks are currently required inside both facilities, even while playing.

“Unfortunately, we have been seeing violations on every single team, so we have to walk where we are talking and we are having to take some action now,” Denise White, the city of Aspen’s communications director, said Friday. “We are in the business to support healthy and physical activity and we know the hockey players enjoy playing, but we can’t say we are going to do something and not do it.”

All leagues — this includes the women’s Mother Pucker league — have been suspended until at least Jan. 6, which results in two weeks of the league season when factoring in the holiday break. This suspension of play does not include youth hockey at the moment, nor will it impact the Aspen High School hockey season, although spectators will be limited at games and masks will be required for everyone in attendance.

White said there will be a public meeting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall and all players are invited. The hope is to create a more sustainable solution for play while the mask ordinance remains in place. Among the options brought up is to require all players be vaccinated, which would mean masks would no longer be required during games.

“We don’t like doing this either, so we are looking for more sustainable solutions that our hockey players can appreciate as well as help us provide that safe environment,” White said.

White mentioned she does not believe the players are necessarily against the mask ordinance, but that during play the masks naturally tend to drop in the heat of the moment. Intentional or not, the city is determined to make sure masks stay on faces before play can resume as long as the ordinance remains in place.

“Playing and being athletic while wearing a mask has been challenging,” White said, making note of some of the other enhanced measures the city has used to curb local COVID-19 infections around the ice rink. “We hired security personnel. We focused more staff members on mask compliance and we added signage around the facility. We did a lot of messaging right around that outbreak and canceled games at that time. This is unfortunate.”

Last month, adult and youth hockey tournaments in the Roaring Fork Valley were believed to be responsible for a COVID-19 outbreak, with more than 70 individuals testing positive for the coronavirus. Pitkin County epidemiologist Josh Vance called it the area’s largest outbreak since the beginning of the pandemic.

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