A new provincial health order on COVID-19 exempts players under the age of 18 from having to wear masks in indoor facilities while they are playing sports. The players will still have to wear masks when they are not actively playing.
The provincial government made the announcement on Thursday during a lengthy update that included an order for masks to be worn in all indoor public spaces, as well as proof of vaccination or mandatory testing for all provincial employees.
The order settled a debate in Saskatoon, where the city's minor hockey and ringette associations were speaking out against a city council decision to mandate masks be worn by all people in city-run athletic centres, including athletes.
"We're pleased that the decision has been made to follow the masking health order from the province of Saskatchewan, said Kelly Boes, executive director of the Saskatoon Minor Hockey Association.
"It makes it consistent across the board at all rinks in the province now, which is probably the best thing."
Earlier this week, Boes made a presentation to councillors asking that the city exempt players from a mask mandate that covered all city facilities. He said the masks would create line-of-sight issues and players would be at greater risk of concussions due to collisions.
He also said the city policy would have applied to a handful of civic-run arenas, while privately-owned arenas would have been operating under different rules.
"It would have been makes it all over the map for people understanding what they're supposed to do at different rinks," he said.
While Boes said the mask rules remain unclear for referees under the age of 18, he said minor hockey planned on strictly enforcing mask rules for everyone not on the ice, including players in dressing rooms.
"That is the one area where they can be in closer quarters for a period of time, compared to being on the ice, where they might bump into somebody for a split second and then move on, said Boes.
"We really want to enforce it and make sure our coaches and volunteers are are holding the kids accountable for that."
The city's director of emergency management said the city planned to follow the guidelines laid out by the province.