The Manitoba Junior Hockey League says it has made the “extremely difficult decision’ to cancel the rest of its competitive season, including regular season games and playoffs.
With so much uncertainty still surrounding when COVID-19 restrictions might ease in Manitoba, it “has become unrealistic to continue operating in a state of hope,” league commissioner Kevin Saurette stated in a news release on Friday.
When Manitoba moved to the critical level on its pandemic response system in November, hockey was paused.
In the meantime, people working with the junior league “exhausted” possible return-to-play scenarios with public health staff, including getting hockey-specific CCM face masks for on-ice training, Saurette said.
He said the league, one of 10 Junior A hockey leagues in Canada, also showed how it operated safely during the pandemic from July until mid-November, when hockey was paused.
During that time, the league’s 12 teams completed 24 training camps, more than 400 training sessions and more than 60 games, Saurette said.
But in the end, that wasn’t enough to convince public health to allow the league to return to on-ice team training activity in time to allow a feasible, gradual return to play, he said, “even in a non-contact, professionally managed, closed to public, distanced, 100% masked and extremely protected environment.”
“The MJHL Community were Return To Play leaders throughout the province and beyond and it is disappointing that we were not able to do so once again,” he said.
Manitoba’s latest public health orders keep hockey rinks closed, except for use by professional and Western Hockey League teams based in the province, which are allowed to play.
Saurette said the junior hockey league’s focus is now on advocating for a safe return to on-ice team training activities for all players across Manitoba and planning possible upcoming events such as spring camps and showcases.
“Although we are extremely saddened to make this announcement, we now look forward to the future as we prepare for bigger and better things for the 2021/22 season,” Saurette said.