Hockey Winnipeg won’t drop the puck on remaining season

Hockey Winnipeg is throwing in the towel on the fleeting chance it can resume regular season play.

The association governing amateur hockey in Winnipeg announced Saturday it made the difficult decision to cancel the remainder of the 2020-21 regular hockey season and playoffs.

Executive director Ian McArton argued it is no longer feasible to ice a season, even if pandemic restrictions loosen to the extent that organized sports are permitted again.

At that time, individual hockey associations will be able to operate local programming such as practices, but no sanctioned games.

“This is really hard because you see how much everyone loves the game,” McArton said.

“We’ve got passionate coaches and players and administrators and everything, but, you know, we’re at the mercy of the provincial guidelines and I understand why,” he said. “This is too bad.”

Hockey iced since November

The directive affects every league operated by Hockey Winnipeg, except for the U-15 AAA boys’ teams playing in a provincially run league. 

Organized hockey is one of many casualties in the pandemic. 

All games were cancelled when Winnipeg, and later Manitoba, were put under strict code red restrictions in early November, as the number of COVID-19 infections soared.

The province may relax restrictions on recreational activities on Feb. 13 at the earliest.

McArton said booking the required ice time for some 300 teams isn’t practical as the winter wears on. Some rinks are converted for spring and summer sports, while other arenas rely on natural ice so they cannot extend the season. 

“This was a hard decision,” he said. “All of our people that are involved in our executive are hockey people.”

McArton says he feels terrible for the players, especially those whose final year of minor hockey is ending prematurely.

“I don’t know if there’s anything I can say that would fully express how much we regret everything that’s happened,” he said.

“I really hope that the kids are able to to get on the ice, even for a practice.”

Hockey Winnipeg said in an email to parents that it will offer “fair refunds” to its members based on the amount of hockey played before the lockdown and the practices that may occur afterwards. Some expenses, such as tryout fees and player insurance, are non-refundable.

Several other hockey associations in Manitoba have also pulled the plug on their seasons, including Eastman and Interlake.