NEW JERSEY - Youth hockey travel players got the news they have been eagerly waiting for on Monday. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order No. 187 allowing indoor sports deemed as medium and high risk by the New Jersey Department of Health to resume contact practices and games. The order includes ice hockey, basketball, cheerleading, group dance, rugby, boxing, judo, karate, taekwondo and wrestling.

Murphy previously signed executive orders permitting the start of outdoor sports like baseball and soccer as well as allowing practices and games for "low risk" indoor sports. High and medium risk sports such as ice hockey were allowed to have non-contact indoor practices. Youth hockey teams have been practicing without contact, but have not been able to start their seasons that typically begin in September.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for our student-athletes support staff, and school communities,” said Murphy. “After consulting stakeholders and medical experts, we have concluded that, with proper public health and safety protocols in place, indoor sports may now resume in a way that protects players, coaches, and staff.”    

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The order takes effect immediately, meaning some local youth hockey travel organizations like the Old Bridge Junior Knights will be able to finally play games this weekend. All indoor practices and games are limited to 25 percent capacity of the room. According to a press release from the New Jersey Governor's Office, if the number of players, coaches and referees is more than 25 percent, the practice or game may go on as scheduled, but without spectators. However, the number of necessary individuals still cannot be more than 150 people.

All indoor facilities and teams must still follow the health and safety protocols laid out by the NJ Department of Health's “Guidance for Sports Activities.” Some protocols include temperature screenings for players, coaches, refs and staff. There are also limits placed on equipment sharing as well as requirements for disinfecting and sanitizing frequently used surfaces and equipment.