'Bigger than hockey': Hockey Manitoba cancels seasons amid COVID-19 concerns
Basketball Manitoba, Ringette Manitoba, Manitoba High Schools Athletic Association also pull plug on seasons
Kaelyn Morden emerged from the dressing room at Notre Dame Arena Thursday after playing what will be her final game of the season with her team. It wasn't supposed to end like this.
"I'm very sad … because I love hockey," said Morden, one of thousands of hockey players whose seasons have been cut short due to concerns surrounding COVID-19.
Scores of young Manitoba athletes won't be able to finish off their seasons as planned after a number of governing sports organizations decided to cancel events amid growing coronavirus concerns.
Provincial health officials announced the first three presumptive cases of COVID-19 Thursday, and within hours Hockey Manitoba pulled the plug on all of its sanctioned games and events for the remainder of the season.
The executive director of Hockey Manitoba said it was a difficult, unprecedented decision that was made in consultation with Hockey Canada and in the interest of all players and fans.
"If you said to someone that you're cancelling hockey I don't know if they'd believe you," Peter Woods said.
"But I think if you step back and you look at it from outside, and recognize that this is bigger than hockey and it's about the safety of people and their well-being and their health, it was a relatively easy decision in that respect."
Although some games were still being played shortly after the decision was announced, Hockey Manitoba said the cancellation of the season will take full effect on Friday.
Hockey parents at Notre Dame Arena Thursday night had mixed reactions to the news that their kids wouldn't get to compete in playoffs, but Oliver Froese said it was probably for the best.
"It's disappointing, the kids have played hard all year and they always look forward to the finals," said Froese,
"I guess you've got to err on the side of caution and I guess they made a good call."
WATCH | Hockey parents mixed over premature end of season:
"It impacts everything," said Hockey Manitoba president Paul Whitehead. "It's huge."
He said all minor hockey in the province has come to a standstill, including the 35,000 players and members of Hockey Manitoba.
Other leagues have also cancelled or postponed seasons until further notice.
Following the lead of its parent league in the CHL, the Western Hockey League will also pause its season. The Brandon Wheat Kings and Winnipeg Ice play in the WHL.
The Manitoba High Schools Athletic Association has cancelled high school basketball and hockey championships, along with badminton and other school sports.
Basketball Manitoba lauded that move, following up by cancelling the junior high basketball championships and advising all member clubs, teams, leagues and camps to stop games and practices Friday.
1/3 COVID-19 Impact on Ringette in Manitoba <br>Out of the utmost concern for our athletes, coaches, officials and families, Ringette Manitoba has decided that postponing the remaining Ringette Manitoba Provincials AA, B, C, OPEN and the R4UJamboree effective immediately is the—@MBRingette
Ringette Manitoba tweeted Thursday night saying it, too, is stopping play for the same concerns.
The national 2020 U Sports men's volleyball championships were scheduled to go ahead at the University of Manitoba this weekend. Initially U Sports said only team members and staff would be allowed in, but the organization later fully cancelled the event.
With files from Wendy Parker