Premature end expected for hockey season

PORT HAWKESBURY: Two playoff series involving local teams were suspended and are unlikely to resume after the province announced more public health restrictions.

During a media briefing on April 22, Premier Iain Rankin and Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, announced new rules for all areas of the Halifax Regional Municipality, as well as surrounding communities.

The public is asked to travel to and from those areas only when necessary (school, work, health care, legal requirements, and family visitation), and no sports practices, training, games, competitions, or tournaments are permitted, the province said.

On April 26, the provincial government announced more measures which included no sports events, and a maximum of 10 people indoors or 25 people outdoors for sports practices and training but no games, competitions or tournaments.

Then on April 27, more changes were announced.

The province said there will be no sports events, and all fitness, recreational and sports facilities are closed.

The province said licensed and unlicensed establishments cannot host activities such as darts, cards, pool and bowling and indoor fitness facilities like gyms and yoga studios and sport and recreation facilities like pools, arenas, tennis courts and large multipurpose recreation facilities are closed.

Businesses and organizations offering a wide variety of indoor recreation activities are closed, such as indoor play areas, arcades, climbing facilities, dance classes and music lessons, but the province said outdoor recreation activities, including individual sports, are allowed and encouraged, and outdoor fitness and recreation businesses and organized clubs can operate with a maximum of five people and physical distancing.

This pre-empted the start of the Nova Scotia U16 AAA Hockey League finals, featuring the Cabot Highlanders, in Sackville last weekend, as well as the series’ return to the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre this upcoming weekend.

Also interrupted was the Nova Scotia U18 Hockey League semi-final series between the Cape Breton West Islanders and Halifax McDonalds which was slated to start April 24 at the Halifax Forum, and also return this weekend to the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre.

Islanders head coach Nick MacNeil said there is a league meeting on April 30, and at that time, a final decision will be made, but he is not hopeful.

“It’s more than likely put the kibosh on the season,” MacNeil told The Reporter. “I think the writing is on the wall that it’s probably done.”

Although he said that possibility is “extremely disappointing,” Cape Breton West had a really good year, the coach said.

“Last weekend at the Civic Centre is something I’ll never forget for a long time; how entertaining, how crazy the games were, and ended on the winning side on Sunday after playing 12 periods of hockey. I’m super proud of the group. It’s over but certainly it’s not the end all,” MacNeil stated.

MacNeil noted that the coaches have been reminding their players how fortunate they were to play as much hockey as they did, even though it is tough to come to terms with the season’s likely end.

“We’re very lucky to be where we’re at and where we live. We had over 100 practices in, played about 37 games total, with exhibition I think it was 40,” said. “I truly believe we pushed the kids, they improved and we’re all about helping these kids get to the next level and develop them as people as well.”

Looking down the road, MacNeil said he’s unsure whether they will be able to host spring hockey, given current public health rules.