At some point in the near future, the WHL will announce that it isn’t going to be starting its next season on Jan. 8, as it had hoped. It has to make that announcement soon because its previous plan would have meant players travelling on Dec. 26 to begin short training camps on Dec. 27.
But with the three Prairie provinces and B.C. turning into COVID-19 hot spots, with the governments in all four jurisdictions imposing restrictions to one degree or another and with the Christmas season closing in on us, now really isn’t the time to be looking at getting a new season started.
The OHL has said it plans on opening on Feb. 4, so I would guess that the WHL, whose pooh-bahs apparently met earlier this week, will choose to try and do the same.
Of course, the WHL will pretty much have to forget about the five U.S. Divisions teams if there is to be a new season, because the U.S.-Canada border isn’t going to open any time soon. Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, said earlier this week that the border will remain closed to non-essential travel until “the virus is significantly more under control everywhere around the world.”
In B.C., the hammer came down on hockey and a whole lot of other sports as Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, announced that most sports, whether being played indoors or outside, were being banned.
She explained, too, that it isn’t the games causing the problems.
“I’ve said this many, many times,” she said. “It’s the locker room, it’s the before, it’s the after, it’s the going for a coffee or a beer after a game that has been the most source of transmission.”
According to Dr. Henry, 10 to 15 per cent of all transmissions in her province can be tied to sports or fitness-related activities.
As Postmedia’s David Carrigg wrote: “This came a day after reporting that an oldtimers team from the Interior Health region had travelled to Alberta and come back infected. This led to dozens of cases among family and workmates and has caused an outbreak in at least one long-term care facility.”
It would seem that, at least in B.C., there won’t be any junior hockey games being played at any level for some time.
The latest order from the Provincial Health Officer suspends “all indoor and outdoor team sports for people 19 years of age and older.”
At the same time, “indoor and outdoor sport for people under 19 years of age can continue” but with restrictions. Games, tournaments and competitions for teams aren’t allowed, but group training may occur so long as participants are able to maintain a physical distance of three metres from one another.
The Ministry of Health also explained that “the intention of the restrictions is to minimize the number of people we interact with and to reduce travel in order to significantly reduce COVID-19 transmission.”
There doesn’t seem to have been any time element discussed in terms of these latest restrictions. I have been the word “indefinitely” used, and also saw that Dr. Henry apparently said they will be in place for weeks to come.
A tip of the Taking Note fedora to the Saanich Predators of the junior B Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League. Here’s part of a news release issued by owners Edward Geric and Norm Kelly on Thursday:
“The public health order impacts players over 19 years old, which is more than half of our team. Rather than looking for ways to request an exemption for continued practice for our whole team, we have instead decided that it’s best for all of our players, coaches and staff to stop play for now and get those who are currently living with billet families safely home for the holiday season.
“Though we are sad to lose this time during such an exciting season with our new name logo and colours, we feel strongly that it’s time to take a look at the big picture, listen carefully to Dr. Henry and not look for ways to continue playing right now. We all need to do our part for the long-term health of our community, and we know the Saanich Predators can be counted on to do just that.”
The San Francisco 49ers arrived in Glendale, Ariz., where they are likely to spend the remainder of the NFL season. For sure, they will play their next two ‘home’ games there after Santa Clara County, their normal home, banned contact sports.
Ann Killion, one of the San Francisco Chronicle’s terrific sports columnists, writes:
“But (Kyle) Shanahan, an NFL coach who is better than most at seeing the big picture, doesn’t deserve your wrath. It is the NFL that has put the 49ers in this situation, with its demented pursuit of the completion of a 16-game schedule. With its unwillingness to cancel games or pause the season. With its forcing of the Ravens and Steelers to play a game on a Wednesday afternoon, with several starters missing. With its demand that the Broncos take the field without a legitimate quarterback. With its solution to sending the 49ers to a state where virus cases are raging rather than just wait until this long-predicted spike subsides.”
That column is right here.
BTW, in that column, Dr. Jeff Smith, the county executive for Santa Clara County, told Killion this: “If leaders want to protect their teams and communities, they should not play anywhere until it is safe.”
COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
CBC News: Manitoba reports 12 more COVID-19 fatalities and 368 new cases. That’s lower than the province’s average for the previous 7-days of 397. Authorities say there are 357 people in hospital with the virus, a record high.
CBC News: Saskatchewan has 259 new COVID-19 cases, which is below the province’s 7-day average of 276. Saskatchewan health authorities are also reporting 1 additional death.
CBC News: Alberta once again shatters COVID-19 record with 1,854 new cases. Province has reported almost 10,000 new cases over the past six days.
Red Deer Advocate: Red Deer has 289 active cases of COVID-19.
CBC News: 12 more people die of COVID-19 in B.C. as 694 new cases confirmed. The number of patients in hospital dips slightly to 325, with 80 in critical condition. . . . Right now, 10,849 people are in isolation and being monitored by public health workers because of exposure to known cases of COVID-19. . . . To date, 35,422 cases of the disease have been confirmed and 481 people have died.
CBC News: 14 more COVID-19-linked deaths reported in Ontario. Critical Care Services Ontario says 203 COVID-19 patients are in ICU. Health officials have said that 150 is the threshold for when unrelated schedules and procedures may be cancelled.
Cynthia Mulligan, Citynews Toronto: Ontario COVID-19 data Thursday: 1,842 new cases; 7 day avg 1770 — highest ever, 1 wk ago at 1427, 2 wks ago at 1370; 14 deaths; Positivity 4.4%, 52,873 tests, Backlog 58,320; Hospitalizations up 10 to 666; ICU 195 – most since May; 122 new cases in schools w 15.6% of all schools showing cases.
CBC News: Quebec is reporting 30 additional deaths and 1,470 new COVID-19 cases. For comparison, the province’s average for the previous 7 days is 1,374.
CBC News: Quebec Premier François Legault has backtracked on his plan to allow gatherings over the Christmas holiday period after a rise in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
CBC News: Global COVID-19 cases top 65M, with over 1.5M deaths: Johns Hopkins University.
CBS Evening News: In just 24 hours, the U.S. has broken every record set since the pandemic began 10 months ago, with more new infections, hospitalizations and deaths in a single day than ever before.
As was expected, the No. 25 Liberty Flames (9-1) won’t be playing football at the No. 14 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (9-0) on Saturday, and the No. 8 BYU Cougars (9-0) will fill the void. ESPN Stats and Info reports that this will be “just the third regular-season or conference championship game between 9-0 or better teams since 2000.” . . . Liberty is in the middle of an outbreak that has included star QB Malik Willis testing positive.
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JUST NOTES: I met Jim Loria more than a few years ago when he was working in the Regina Pats’ front office. A couple of years later, he was working with the NHL’s Washington Capitals. Before joining the Pats, he did a stint with the Billings Bighorns. Recently, we renewed our acquaintance for the first time in a long while. In these pandemic times, you might be interested in checking out his new website where you just might find some inspiration to help you get through these strange times. It’s all right here. Give it a look. . . . If you’re a fan of MLB, you should know that The Athletic’s Sahadev Sharma is reporting that Len Kasper is leaving the Chicago Cubs’ TV booth — he has been there since 2005 — to do radio play-by-play of Chicago White Sox’ games. Who will replace Kasper? Gordon Wittenmyer of NBC Sports Chicago reports that it will be veteran broadcaster Chris Myers.