REGINA -- Thousands of parents and hockey supporters in Saskatchewan have signed a petition asking the provincial government to ease COVID-19 restrictions for youth sports.

The petition, which was started four months ago, has over 10,000 signatures asking Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe to allow Saskatchewan hockey leagues to compete.

It was updated to reflect last week’s message from the Business Response Unit that restrictions will be in place until the end of March.

In December, Saskatchewan Hockey Association general manager Kelly McClintock was optimistic that a return to play would be possible in January. However, the recent announcement slashes those hopes.

“It’s frustrating because for everybody in our sport – and I think a lot of other sports – there was still that hope that we’d be able to at least play some games,” McClintock said. 

McClintock said they have approximately 27,000 hockey players, which does not include senior players, under the Saskatchewan Hockey Association umbrella. He is not surprised there is a large group of people who want to keep playing.

However, there are also parents who want tighter restrictions. For every few calls saying he is not doing enough to keep hockey going, McClintock said he also gets a call from someone saying he should shut hockey down.  

Premier Scott Moe addressed the petition – which calls on him to facilitate a return to hockey in February – earlier this week, saying adults need to be more responsible in order for the province to open up more opportunities for children.

“At the very same time as we have these adults asking for their children to participate in a sport like hockey, we see a video of a number adults that are selfishly and drunkenly dancing,” Moe said during a press conference Tuesday.

Moe added adults need to be more responsible in order for the province to open up more opportunities for children.  

“Enough is enough. It’s time for us to start enforcing those that are not following those measures,” Moe said. “We have kids in community after community across this province that are making the sacrifice, it’s time for all of us as adults to make the same sacrifice.”

While the petition was started by Saskatchewan Hockey, McClintock said the provincial organization is not associated with the online petition.

However, McClintock added he would like to see some restrictions eased.

“I wouldn’t mind if right now we could just go back to practicing as a full team just like we did at the start of the year. That would alleviate a lot of frustration,” McClintock said.

Current restrictions allow for a maximum of eight athletes under the age of 18 to train while maintaining physical distance.