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Finnish ice hockey league prepares for break

Restrictions on the number of people permitted to attend a public event may lead to the league suspending fixtures.

Fans of the KalPa ice hockey team in Kuopio will not be able to watch their team in action for a number of weeks. Image: AOP

The Finnish Hockey League is preparing to take a break from matches due to restrictions on the amount of people that can attend public events.

Although no time frame has yet been confirmed, the Finnish Elite League’s (SM-liiga) chair Heikki Hiltunen told Yle Sport on Tuesday that the break is likely to last weeks, potentially for the entire month of December.

On Monday, health agency THL sent a statement to Regional State Administrative Agencies (Avi) across the country, calling for restrictions to be placed on public events of more than 50 people, or even as few as 10 people in certain areas.

It is not financially feasible for the hockey league teams to play games with fewer than 50 spectators, which seems to leave the league little choice but to suspend the fixture list.

The league had hoped to play some games in December as a number of teams play their home games in areas that are not currently considered to be in either the 'acceleration' or 'spreading' phases of the epidemic.

Situation changes guidelines

However, THL’s recommendations to the regional agencies, sent on Monday, have changed the situation.

The statement, which was signed by the health agency’s CEO Markku Tervahauda and director Mika Salminen, recommended that even in areas considered to be at the 'base' level of the epidemic, "a maximum of 50 people can be allowed to gather at public events and public meetings indoors and outdoors."

The statement added that a maximum of 20 people would be permitted to attend public events in regions considered to be in the acceleration phase, and the limit would be 10 people for areas in the spreading phase.

In the past, THL had recommended that public events could be held for more than 50 people if safe distancing measures were observed and other precautionary measures were taken.

However, the health institute justified the new recommendations on grounds that infections are rising across the country, and new cases have been found in an increasing number of municipalities.

Some games may go ahead

Several regional agencies responded immediately to THL’s recommendation and tightened restrictions on public events from the beginning of this week. This included the Regional State Administrative Agency of Eastern Finland which stated on Tuesday that public events for more than 50 people cannot be held in Kuopio, despite the city being at the base level.

As a result, the Finnish Hockey League team KalPa have postponed all of their December home games.

However, in the region of Satakunta in the southeast of Finland, which is considered to be in an acceleration phase, the regional agency have not yet implemented the THL recommendation. If this remains the case, the home games of league teams Ässät ja Lukko may still go ahead in December.

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