Impact of COVID-19 felt by local athletes

STRAIT AREA: With fears surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic spreading even more quickly than the virus, a great number of sports events across the province have been cancelled – and the effect is certainly felt locally.

As of last Friday, Hockey Canada suspended all Hockey Canada-sanctioned activities, including national and provincial championships, until further notice. That included events already underway, like the Major Bantam provincials which were being decided at the Keating Millennium Centre in Antigonish.

The Nova Major Bantams finished the provincial league as regular season champs. They were also the top seeded team for the tourney that never happened.

Also canned is the Bantam AA provincial championship, which would have taken place in Port Hood this weekend. The Strait-Richmond Minor Hockey Championship, which would have been going on this week at the Richmond Arena and Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre, is kiboshed.

“All Hockey Nova Scotia-sanctioned events have been cancelled until further notice,” said Arnie Farrell, President of Hockey Nova Scotia. “This is a decision that Hockey Nova Scotia fully supports. The safety of our membership is our top priority.”

In a release from Hockey Canada, on behalf of Tom Renney, chief executive officer, and Scott Smith, president and chief operating officer, the national organization stated the pandemic creates an unprecedented period of difficulty for the sports world. Health and safety have to come first, the release said.

“We recognize the tremendous effort that has been put forth all year by individuals across the country as they participate in Canada’s game,” the release said. “Although it is difficult to process the hockey season ending abruptly, we feel this is the best course of action in order to do our part in keeping our country safe.”

Shane MacIsaac, president of the Nova Major Bantams, said the decision was no great surprise. While that’s the case, a great number of Bantam-aged kids and parents were gutted by the news.

It’s worth noting the Novas were thought by many to be the front runners for the Major Bantam championship.

“The parents and the host committee put so much effort into this,” he said. “They’ve been meeting weekly since the first of December to make this a memorable experience. On the other hand, this group of kids have players who’ve played together for 10 years, and this was the last chance they had to play together, and they had the opportunity to win the championship. They could have possibly gone on [to Atlantics].”

The Atlantic Superstore made a considerable donation of food for the event, but with the teams having gone down the road Friday morning, no one was left around to eat it. As a result, MacInnis reported the tournament organizers were able to help out the Antigonish branch of the Canadian Association for Community Living and Keltic Living.

“And whatever they don’t use, they’ll give to the Antigonish Food Bank,” he said.

The Novas are now mulling over what becomes of their Spring ID camp.

Prior to the Hockey Canada announcement, the IIHF Women’s World Championship was cancelled due to Covid-19 fears. Even though the event was slated for Halifax and Truro, the canceling had repercussions for the local area. Both Antigonish and Port Hawkesbury were to see pre-tournament action.

On March 26, the Keating Millennium Centre in Antigonish was going to see St. Francis Xavier University host Czech Republic. With that, the Town of Port Hawkesbury was going to host Team Japan as part of the pre-tournament camp schedule from March 20 to 28.

Neither event will be happening now.

Outside of the hockey world, Judo Canada made the decision to call off the Atlantic Open Championship slated for April 18 and 19 in Summerside, Prince Edward Island. It’s very likely the Port Hawkesbury Judo Club would have been represented there.

Volleyball Nova Scotia suspended activities last Friday, which left the Strait Area Saints U18 Girls in limbo following their winning of the Super Series 2. The girls had the opportunity to move onto the Tier 1 Super Series, but it’s now off the table.

“We’re a little disappointed our season is suspended due to Covid-19,” said Saint coach Heather Brennan. “Tournaments, Super Series, and provincials – they’re all suspended right now.

“Keeping people healthy right now is our priority, but we’re sad.”

Richmond Recreation cancelled all programs that were scheduled for March Break, and that includes the two public swims scheduled at the Strait Area Pool as part of the March Break Fun Flyer. With that, all public skates scheduled for the Richmond Arena for the remainder of the season have been cancelled.

Port Hawkesbury Town Council held a special emergency meeting on Sunday. It was decided to close the arena facility including the walking track. The Port Hawkesbury Fitness Centre is also closed until further notice.

Last Sunday evening, Ray Bates of the Chedabucto Curling Club contacted The Reporter to state his group is closing the rink for the balance of this curling season.

“With a membership whose ages spread from six years to their 80s, the executive sought and received direction regarding whether or not to continue with the balance of this curling season,” Bates said.

“Respecting the harsh reality that we are in a worldwide pandemic and exercising due diligence within its organization and concern for the well-being of its curlers and community, a vote from the curling club’s membership was called with input being returned overwhelmingly to close immediately, thereby lessening the potential opportunity for a possible spreading of the virus.”

Brad Stevens, the Cape Breton rep for Baseball Nova Scotia, was also in contact with The Reporter last Sunday. He pointed out that Baseball Nova Scotia has suspended all in person baseball activities up to and including April 5. BNS staff members have been instructed to work from home.