The COVID-19 pandemic has huge impact on hockey scene to end 2020
By George Potter, Staff Writer
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, hockey leagues across Western Canada have postponed or cancelled their scheduled games for players’ health and safety. From junior hockey to the world juniors, here’s how teams are being forced to deal with the increase in cases across the country.
Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL)
Early in the pandemic, many instances of positive COVID-19 results between teams caused a plethora of cancellations across the league. As a safety precaution, games in the AJHL were supposed to be cancelled until early December. However, on Nov. 24, the Government of Alberta declared strict gathering restrictions, prohibiting indoor group physical activity with few exceptions. The AJHL Board of Governors will update their return-to-play protocol by Dec. 19.
Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL)
In mid-November, most teams in the SJHL postponed games due to health and safety. The La Ronge Ice Wolves and Battleford North Stars plan to reschedule their games between January and February of 2021. The only team in the league based in Manitoba, the Flin Flon Bombers, had to put their season on hold due to the province’s influx of COVID-19 cases, placing them in the critical “red zone” of their pandemic response system. On Nov. 25, it was announced that the league will pause its play and resume closer to the holidays due to the recent announcement made by the Saskatchewan government.
British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL)
The BCHL cancelled exhibition games from Nov. 13 to Nov. 21 due to rising cases of COVID-19 in the area. However, the league’s COVID-19 safety plan indicates that there will be no games between Nov. 23 and Dec. 7. Unfortunately, the Wenatchee Wild will not participate in the 2020-21 season due to the closed borders between Canada and the U.S., in addition to the State of Washington’s current restrictions.
World Junior Hockey
Team Canada’s World Junior selection camp was scheduled to include exhibition games with the University of Alberta Golden Bears and Mount Royal University (MRU) Cougars mens’ hockey teams. However, due to two positive COVID-19 tests within the camp, the team is trying to cut a 46-man roster to a final roster of 25. Camp has been temporarily suspended, as the entire team undergoes a 14-day quarantine.
After the cancellation of the exhibition games against the two Canada West squads, the Cougars had an outbreak of their own. On Nov. 30, MRU sent out a campus-wide update, stating that 18 members of the hockey team tested positive for COVID-19. The men’s hockey team, along with all other Cougars teams, were training under multiple safety protocols before the outbreak. But, with new restrictions from the Government of Alberta, no varsity programs will be training until 2021.
Western Hockey League (WHL)
The WHL will not start play until Jan. 8, 2021. The U16 tournament — also called the WHL Cup — typically features Western Canada’s top talent. However, this year, it has been cancelled due to COVID-19 safety precautions.