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Hopkinton health director fines youth hockey team $2,100 for COVID-19 protocol violations

Hopkinton’s health director has levied a $2,100 fine against an area youth hockey team after two players concealed their COVID-19 symptoms before playing in a tournament in Pennsylvania and then testing positive once they returned home, according to published reports and officials.

Boston 25 reported Wednesday that Health Director Shaun McAuliffe had issued the fine to the elite Junior Bruins 18U squad, and that McAuliffe had informed public health officials in York, Pa. via email that both players reported being symptomatic on March 2, one day before they traveled to Pennsylvania.

McAuliffe also said in the message to his York counterparts that the symptomatic players feared the team ”would not have been eligible for the championship” had they tested positive ahead of time, so they “took over the counter medications during their stay to mitigate the symptoms,” Boston 25 reported.

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Reached via email by the Globe on Thursday, McAuliffe said he would forward that written documentation of the matter later Thursday afternoon or Friday.

“The Jr. Bruins organization is attempting to blame their players for the organization’s lack of regulatory compliance,” McAuliffe told the Globe in an email message. “The reality is that the player’s illness, is likely the result of the Jr. Bruin’s internal failures. If the Department and state organizations found the players and their parent’s at fault, they would have been cited. I only cited the organization.”

Junior Bruins owner Chris Masters told the Globe the team has already appealed the fine.

“The issue was that two players who were symptomatic during our trip withheld that information from our coach,” Masters said in a statement. “Our coach had no knowledge they did not feel well. One player commented to the health board that if he told our coach he wasn’t feeling well he would be pulled from all team activities. He was also fearful that the entire team would be pulled from playoffs. He was fearful because our protocol all season was to pull any player who wasn’t feeling well till they produced a negative COVID-19 test. Had our coach been told the player(s) were not feeling well they would have been pulled.”

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Masters said the Junior Bruins “have followed Covid protocols and guidelines throughout the season and have been compliant with health departments that have asked for information and have appealed the fines.”

The Junior Bruins are based in Marlborough and field multiple teams, according to their website.

“The Bruins have graduated more players to D-1 colleges than any midget/junior program on the east coast. Their alums have played at every Hockey East and ECAC school as well as at colleges in other D-1 leagues,” the site says. “They have sent more players to the US National Team Development Program than any other on the east coast and have alums that have played or are currently playing in the National Hockey League.”

The Globe reported last October that concern had been rising in New England over the potential for coronavirus outbreaks related to hockey games, which are known for plenty of hard breathing and physical contact in rinks bounded by plexiglass walls.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a study at the time that warned hockey games could turn into “superspreader events.”

“Hockey is a game that could facilitate transmission of COVID-19 for several reasons. It’s played indoors, the plexiglass shields around the rink limit ventilation, and the exertion of the players mean they are breathing heavily while close to each other — either during play or on the bench, and also in the locker rooms,” said Dr. Paul Sax, clinical director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, back in October.

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And the college ranks haven’t been immune.

The Boston University men’s hockey team in early December paused all athletic activities after someone connected with the team tested positive for COVID-19.

According to a BU statement at the time, the positive test came from a member of the team’s Tier 1 personnel, which includes athletes, coaches, managers, and support staff. Tier 1 personnel are tested three times a week in accordance with NCAA, Hockey East, and university protocols.

“To ensure the health and safety of the BU campus and greater Boston community, the Department of Athletics and all of its varsity programs have been following state, city and University guidelines since returning to campus in August,” the statement read.

Material from prior Globe stories was used in this report.



Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.