COVID-19 shutters sports leagues, tournaments

Johnathan Holtmann (No. 5, blue) of the Warren Collegiate Wildcats looks to pass the ball against the Carman Cougars at a Manitoba High School Athletics Association AA Varsity Boys Basketball Provincial Qualifier at Teulon Collegiate Institute in Teulon, Man. on March 7, 2020. (Adam Peleshaty/The Stonewall Argus and Teulon Times/Postmedia Network)

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The COVID-19 pandemic which has altered everyday life in most of the world has also put a halt to sporting events, playoffs and tournaments involving Interlake athletes and teams.

The World Curling Federation decided on March 12 to cancel the World Women’s Curling Championship in Prince George, B.C. which was to have taken place from March 14 to 22. As a result, Kerri Einarson’s team from the Gimli Curling Club, which earned the right to represent Canada by virtue of their win at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Moose Jaw, Sask. last month, will not compete for a world title. In a statement posted on social media, the team said it was disappointed, but respects the decision to cancel.

“While we were really looking forward to wearing the maple leaf in Canada, our thoughts go out to those affected by the virus, and our thanks go to all those who have supported Team Canada/Einarson and the event including sponsors, volunteers, officials, fans, the people of Prince George, the World Curling Federation and Curling Canada.”

Both the Canad Inns Canadian Mixed Doubles Championship and the Everest Canadian Senior Curling Championships, both of which were to take place in Portage la Prairie, have also been cancelled. Dave Boehmer’s team from Petersfield was to represent Manitoba at the Canadian Seniors, while Interlake curlers such as Sandy Hook’s Colton Lott and Gimli’s Kadriana Sahaidak were to have been in mixed doubles nationals.

The remaining events on the Grand Slam of Curling have also been cancelled. While local curling clubs have continued to host recreational bonspiels, CurlManitoba recommended on March 16 for clubs to shut down for the season.

The curling events for the 55 Plus Games at the Selkirk Curling Club from March 24 to 26 have also been postponed by the organizing committee.

On March 13, Hockey Canada decided to cancel all sanctioned competition until further notice, including the final weekend of Hockey Manitoba provincial championships. Three provincial championship tournaments were to have taken place in Interlake communities: Stonewall/Warren (Male Peewee A2), Lundar (Male Midget C) and Arborg (Female Bantam AAA).

“We were really looking forward to the event as were the visiting teams, many who had already made the drive out to the Interlake,” Brad Emberly, organizer for the 2020 Female Bantam AAA Provincial Hockey Championship wrote in an email to The Stonewall Argus & Teulon Times. “We had a lot of volunteers lined up to help us through out the weekend. We are disappointed but understand Hockey Manitoba and Hockey Canada’s position.”

Playoffs for minor hockey regionals to senior leagues also ground to a halt. The Selkirk Fishermen were to play the St. Malo Warriors in the Capital Region Junior Hockey League final, while the Keystone Junior Hockey League’s Peguis Juniors and the Manitoba Major Junior Hockey League’s Stonewall Jets were supposed to start the playoffs.The Warren Mercs of the South Eastern Manitoba Hockey League had a 2-0 lead in the championship series against the Portage Islanders.

“It was really shocking for me, the rest of the coaches and the players,” Jets head coach Brock Couch told The Argus & Times. “I can’t imagine what the graduating players are going through to have it end so abruptly.  Nothing like this has ever happened before, that I can remember.”

The Manitoba High School Athletics Association cancelled its provincial hockey and basketball championships as well as all sports activities indefinitely on March 13. Teams from the Lord Selkirk Royals, Stonewall Rams, Teulon Saints, Gimli Lakers and Fisher River Hawks were all set to compete in basketball provincials, while Teulon Collegiate Institute and Fisher River High School were to host tournaments.

“The MHSAA is committed to protecting the health and safety of our student-athletes, staff, coaches, member-schools and the health of all of our fellow Manitobans,” the sporting body wrote in a statement on social media.

The announcement was made in the afternoon after some tournaments had already started play, leaving some teams to come away empty-handed on a long bus ride home mere hours after arrival.

Sport Manitoba has cancelled its Night of Champions and Coaching Awards events, which were slated for March 21.