Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay Border Cats cancel 2020 Northwoods League season

The Thunder Bay Border Cats will not be taking the field this summer.

Cancellation due to COVID-19 pandemic

The Thunder Bay Border Cats have announced the cancellation of the team's 2020 Northwoods League season. (

The Thunder Bay Border Cats will not be taking the field this summer.

In a media release issued Tuesday afternoon, the team said its 2020 Northwoods League schedule has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Border Cats are the only Canadian team in the Northwoods League. With the closure of the Canada-U.S. border until at least June 21, and self-isolation measures in place for any visitors to Canada, the team said it will be "impossible" to play home games in Thunder Bay this season.

Further, there is no guarantee that "significant gatherings" of fans would be allowed at Port Arthur Stadium this summer.

"It's extremely unfortunate that we won't be able to play baseball this summer in Thunder Bay, but with the current state of this pandemic, it is out of our control," Border Cats president David Valente said in a statement. "The Border Cats organization and its parent company Grand Slam Sports & Entertainment remains committed to Thunder Bay and the team will be back next season. We truly appreciate the patience and understanding from our fans and corporate partners."

Northwoods League president and commissioner Gary Hoover told CBC News in an interview that the news is disappointing to fans, and the league itself.

"Thunder Bay is an important market to us. Love coming up there and sitting in the stadium and watching the games," he said. "Very sad that I won't get that opportunity, and that the fans won't get that opportunity this season, but hopeful that all of us are going to return to Port Arthur [Stadium] as soon as we can."

Three-team league set for North Dakota

However, some Northwoods League baseball will be taking place this summer, but on a much-smaller scale.

The Bismarck Larks, based in Bismarck, North Dakota, have put together a three-team league that will be based in that city.

"This was one of the more-innovative contingency plans that we had been formulating at the league," Hoover said. "It was the Bismarck Larks that were the little engine that could, but many of our teams are similarly equipped and prepared, it's just that the circumstances unfolded in a way that made it possible to start in North Dakota."

Players on the three participating teams will be housed in Bismarck, and ready to play when circumstances allow, Hoover said.

"They've thoroughly vetted and created a plan in long consultation with state health officials, local health officials, local health providers, and the city of Bismarck's park and recreation department," Hoover said. "They've come up with a plan to accommodate fans up to a certain capacity amount, maintain social distancing, maintain sanitation."

Hoover said the league is open to the creation of more small, local leagues in other cities, this summer.

"We work closely with our league team owners," he said. "We're watching the restrictions as they're relaxed in each location."

"We're open to the formation of what we might call pods, or sub-regions, within the Northwoods League, if we can create a workable scenario," Hoover said. "Clearly we'd like for more players to play, we'd like for more fans to watch, but we'd like for everybody to do it safely."

The Border Cats said the option to play in that three-team league has been extended to American-born players on the roster.

That opportunity may become available to Canadian-born players, as well, if enough pandemic-related measures are rolled back and they can cross the border this summer, the Cats said.

The Border Cats were initially scheduled to open the 2020 Northwoods League season on May 26.