Nova Scotia

University sports to return this weekend to 3 N.S. schools

Acadia, Saint Mary's and Dalhousie teams will begin a five-week schedule of exhibition games starting Friday night. The sports involved will likely include hockey, basketball, volleyball and swimming.

Acadia, Saint Mary's and Dalhousie involved in five-week exhibition game schedule

A member of the Saint Mary's University women's hockey team is shown reaching for a puck in a game last season against University of New Brunswick. (Nick Pearce)

University sports will return this weekend to three Nova Scotia schools.

Acadia, Saint Mary's and Dalhousie teams will begin a five-week schedule of exhibition games starting Friday night.

"The winter sports that have the potential to be able to compete over the next five weeks would be hockey, basketball, volleyball and swimming," said Acadia University director of athletics Kevin Dickie.

"With Dalhousie and SMU being so close to us, that's the way that things will start off and we'll see where it goes from there."

In late November, Atlantic University Sport decided to scrap the winter season because of how hard the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic was hitting Atlantic Canada.

"It's very special that they're now going to get a chance to be able to compete, even if it's just a small number of games over a short period of time," said Dickie. "It really isn't so much about winning now, it's just about getting the chance to play the sport they love, and that means a lot."

Phil Currie, the executive director of the AUS, said in an email that the upcoming exhibition games are not scheduled by the organization and participation is entirely up to each athletic department. But teams will have to submit rosters and game sheets, and AUS conduct policies are to be followed, he said.

No fans

Dickie said each school is still working on some of the details, but many safety protocols will be in place when games are played.

Dalhousie athletic director Tim Maloney said swim teams at Acadia and Dalhousie are planning time trials and some virtual swim meets.

No fans will be in attendance for any of the competitions.

Many university teams, including the men's basketball team at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., have continued to practice. (Mary-Catherine McIntosh/CBC)

Most teams have continued to practice even though their seasons had been put on an extended pause.

Teams at St. Francis Xavier University were expecting to be part of the new schedule, but last week they were informed the school's administration was not allowing it.

"I recognize this decision will be disappointing for our coaches and student-athletes who have already missed the opportunity to play due to COVID-19," Elizabeth Yeo, St. FX's vice-president students, wrote in an email sent to the school's athletic director, Leo MacPherson.

"However, the health and safety of our entire campus community and the wider Antigonish region is (and will continue to be) paramount in the university's decision making."

Steve Konchalski, coach of the men's basketball team at St. FX, is retiring this year after 45 years. (Mary-Catherine McIntosh/CBC)

While meetings are continuing and it remains a possibility St. FX teams could be added to the mix, the decision currently means long-time men's basketball coach Steve Konchalski, 75, may not get the opportunity to coach another game with the school before retiring.

"I respect the decision our university has made, but at the same time high school teams are playing, minor hockey teams are coming in and out of our facility and are playing teams from all over the province, so I don't really understand it," said Konchalski.

In his 45 seasons at St. FX, Konchalski coached his teams to a Canadian college basketball record 918 wins. Along the way there were nine AUS titles and three national championships, in 1993, 2000 and 2001.

While he is retiring from coaching at St. FX, Konchalski still plans to remain involved with the sport of basketball in some capacity.