COVID-19: Alberta sports leagues in limbo after additional three-week pause

Sports leagues across Alberta are in limbo after a further three weeks of restrictions were imposed by the province.

On Tuesday, Premier Jason Kenney declared a state of public health emergency and extended the temporary shut down to many sports in the province.

After a two week pause, clubs had been anticipating a return to play on Nov. 27, 2020.

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“Just in the last couple of weeks we’ve seen nine outbreaks coming from hockey games, amateur hockey games that have been played in the province,” Kenney said.

The premier added the three-week restriction impacts all levels of sport, but said leagues may apply for exemptions if they have “well developed COVID safety plans.”

Steve Hogle with Hockey Edmonton said the organization is seeking clarification from the province on what that would look like, especially for players now required to switch to online learning for school.

“If they’re at home from school, how can they go play hockey?

“It’s something that we’re exploring, though we’re not exactly sure who that is aimed at. Is it the World Juniors? We’re not sure.”

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Hogle said he was also surprised to hear the premier link a number of COVID-19 outbreaks to hockey and said perhaps Kenney was thinking of confirmed cases among Alberta Junior Hockey League players.

“I was a little surprised that we were sort of all captured in that comment because as I said, we’ve really been by the way our players and parents, our teams and coaches have been following the protocols.”

On Wednesday night, the AJHL tweeted that it was putting its season “on pause” because of the new provincial restrictions “until existing limitations are lifted and we are permitted to safely return.”

“The AJHL board of governors will reconvene on Dec. 19 to determine a timeline and updated protocols for return to play.”

Hockey Edmonton said its schedulers are working on a number of different scenarios which could include extending the season into the spring.

In a letter to its members, Beaumont Amateur Hockey Association (BAHA) said if teams are allowed back on the ice in three weeks, games could be scheduled over the Christmas break.

Leagues across Alberta have also been grappling with the holding pattern and looking for ways to reimburse parents for costly fees.

BAHA told parents it has been tracking the days off and will be issuing pro-rated refunds for the time lost. Those refunds will be issued at the end of the season.

Hockey Edmonton said it is looking at its options for refunds as well.

“Obviously, we are not going to charge parents for ice times we’re never going to see,” Hogle said.

Sean Aggus, president of the Greater Edmonton Lacrosse Council, said the extended pause is impacting the bottom line of its small club.

The GELC was counting on its winter program to bring in cash for its regular season play, which was cancelled this past April.

“We lost our entire revenue from the season,” said Aggus. “Our regular season was scheduled to start in April and obviously that was cancelled, so we have zero revenue.

“It’s very fluid right now and that’s all we can do is just adapt.”

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Outdoor sports have escaped any further limitations.

Tim Dea at Snow Valley said no new restrictions have been added, but the ski hill still requires masking and continues to limit its numbers.

“For 2020/21 yes, business as usual,” said Dea. “We’ve got limited capacity on how many lift tickets we sell and the number of people we’re allowed to have on the hill.”

Dea said lift tickets go on sale two days in advance and staff monitor the number of people inside the lodge.

Kenney told Albertans the province will re-examine COVID-19 case loads and restrictions in mid-December.

Kenney stressed, “this is again not our preference, this is just the reality that we’re dealing with.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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