Kootenay International Junior Hockey League worked its very best to try to get a hockey season in during a pandemic.
However, following the recent decision by BC Provincial Health to extend the province-wide ban on social gatherings and events, indefinitely, due to the citing concerns of the growing number of COVID-19 variant cases, the league announced Saturday the cancellation of its 2020/21 regular season and playoffs, including the Teck Cup championship.
“We are disappointed for our players, team staff, volunteers, sponsors, game officials and fans that the 2020/21 season will not be completed,” said KIJHL commissioner Jeff Dubois in a media release.
Dubois said during the past number of months the league made every effort possible to keep our athletes on the ice and to give all of them, and especially the graduating 20-year-olds, the opportunity to compete for a league championship.
However, the further extension of the PHO takes the league beyond the end of a typical regular season and into the start of the playoffs forcing the KIJHL to make the tough decision to end the season.
"As we approach March and April, we are faced with the reality of arenas removing their ice for the spring and summer, and that leaves us unable to plan for a meaningful conclusion to our season,” Dubois said.
Nelson Leafs president Corey Viala said the team is extremely disappointed the season must end, especially after what started out as an amazing year.
“The entire team had worked so hard to be prepared for a restart of the season,” Viala said.
“Our coaching staff and our GM have put in a ton of work to build a team that made the entire KIJHL take notice.”
“(But) we understand and support the need for COVID-19 restrictions under the current PHO, and we have operated with the health and safety of our players, staff, billet families and volunteers as our top priority at all times.”
Last week the KIJHL was dealt another blow during the upsidedown season when the Revelstoke Grizzlies met COVID-19 head on after a member of the organization tested positive for the virus.
The Grizzlies immediately cancelled the remainder of the season in an effort to keep billet families, players and the greater community safe.
In March of 2020, the uncertainty of COVID-19 took down the KIJHL in the middle of divisional final playoffs.
Dubois said KIJHL clubs will have the option to continue to train under the current PHO guidelines, and the possibility remains that exhibition games may be played if restrictions are relaxed in the future.
“I’d like to thank all of our stakeholders for their patience and understanding during a difficult and challenging season,” Dubois said.
“Our athletes and staff members have done a tremendous job of keeping everybody safe, and our billet families deserve special recognition for welcoming players into their homes during this pandemic. We look forward to being back on the ice this fall and getting back to the game we all love.”
Viala said the Leafs would like to thank all our volunteers, sponsors and billet families who have been extraordinary supportive of us this season.
“We look forward to seeing each and every one of you for the 2021/2022 hockey season,” Viala said.