EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT)– Youth hockey players across the Midwest are spending the weekend in Evansville. Some community members are wondering if it’s safe to host an 80 game tournament, but organizers have a plan to keep people at a safe distance. The Big Bear ‘Perfect Storm’ Tournament comes after months of hockey players not being able to go head to head on the rink with other teams.
“We have been practicing the last couple of weeks, but we haven’t played a game since November 15th,” said Kevin McLaughlin. He and his son traveled from Chelsea, Michigan, for this tournament. McLaughlin said his son has been counting down the days for these games. “It was hard getting to sleep last night.”
The tournament is being held in Swonder Ice Arena and has been approved by the Vanderburgh County Health Department.
“Our seating is marked for social distancing, but also the tournament does a great job of communicating to the families ahead of time that there is a limit of spectators per player,” said Danielle Crook, Swonder Ice Arena’s general manager.
Swonder Ice Areana workers check in with spectators as they enter. They are allowing just two people per hockey player into the arena.
“The venue is very large. They are able to handle probably even more than maybe a couple of family members per participant,” said Joe Gries from the Vanderburgh County Health Department.
Even with the strict two family members per hockey player limit, parents are making due.
“Some people take videos and stream them to their family members who can’t be here,” explained McLaughlin.
To limit exposure even more, all spectators have to leave through the exit doors right after their team’s game is over.
“Because you don’t want ten teams in there all day long. Which just increases the crowd,” Gries said.
Even with these guidelines in place, parents are just glad to see their kid back in their element.
“We are just glad to be able to come down and play,” McLaughlin said.
Officials at Hampton Inn Evansville say they are seeing an uptick in customers this weekend with people traveling for this tournament. Community leaders say this helps tax revenue for the community after the pandemic interrupted travel plans and events. Businesses are still expected to abide by state health regulations.
(This story was originally published on January 15, 2021)