Friday, 12 February 2021

Hockey Season Is Done

The Manitoba Junior Hockey League took it upon themselves tonight to cancel all games remaining in the regular season and the playoffs for the 2019-20 season, thereby ending the season for all its member teams. There seems to be a lot of anger among those teams when every other league in the province has already absorbed this news from their own commissioners, so I'm confused as to why the MJHL teams seem so angry. Not playing is definitely not good for anyone, but neither is COVID-19. I struggle with the outrage seen on social media tonight when hockey players of all ages not playing professionally are now in the same boat in terms of seasons being done and, for some, careers at various levels being done.

As stated above in the opening paragraph, I get that everyone wishes they were playing. Whether it be the MJHL, the MFHL, the MWJHL, Canada West, high school hockey, or your local Timbits hockey, no one is playing indoors this season as per the province of Manitoba's health and safety guidelines for this pandemic. Holding onto this dream that somehow the province would reverse its decision and allow MJHL teams to play seemed foolish at best, but, as the saying goes, it's the hope that kills you.

We've seen cancellations across western Canada from governing hockey bodies, and it seems like a pretty intelligent decision based on the COVID-19 statistics and feedback being seen in leagues playing elsewhere. The NHL, for example, has suffered setbacks in its scheduling thanks to the pandemic, and Marco Rossi's struggles with COVID-19 have been well-documented. Head coaches who were exposed got it. On-ice officials got it. Oh, and that new variant of coronavirus that's more transmissable? It's here in Canada and it's already doing what it does best.

Remind me again why the MJHL thinks it's special and should be playing? I can do this all day if you want.

You can tell me about all the safety precautions that the MJHL was proposing to keep its players and staff safe, but it's pretty clear that, after a year of dealing with this virus, we should be smarter than this. We know that research is showing that the lack of ventilations in hockey arenas combined with the cold air allows the virus to be spread easily in arenas. Knowing how old and how cold some of the MJHL rinks are in Manitoba, this seems like a perfect scenario for an outbreak based on the research.

It seems pretty selfish to me for the MJHL to demand hockey be in session for only its league and for no one else. There are men and women in university who may not be able to return to play their final seasons just as the MJHL is making clear about its players. The same goes for the women in the MFHL and MWJHL who both have age limits for their players who won't get a shot at showcasing their abilities in their final years of eligibility at that level. Kids at all levels are missing a year of on-ice learning and development, yet the MJHL is crying foul over their league not being able to play, at most, a month or two of games.

I hate to break it to you here, MJHL, but you're just like everyone else not playing this winter. Every single league, every coach, every player, and a lot of the parents have wanted hockey back for their kids just like you want hockey back for the players in your league. As shown above, hockey has been affected time and time again by COVID-19, and it seems like we should listen to doctors and want to err on the side of caution when it comes to COVID-19 based on scientific findings.

Let's stop worrying about a month or two of hockey and get ourselves ready for September when hockey can make a triumphant return to the rinks. While I empathize with those players who may not play another season of high-level hockey after this pandemic-filled nightmare of a winter, the best thing and the right thing to do is to ensure this doesn't happen next season in any capacity. That means preparing now for the 2021-22 season rather than bemoaning the fact that starting or resuming a season in February won't happen.

The hockey season in Manitoba is, for better or worse, done for any player not wearing a Jets or Moose jersey. There's no turning back time or rewinding the tape on that fact, so we need to look to the future to ensure that not only does hockey start in September, but we can play through to February next season without any stoppages or hiccups in the schedule.

It leads me to think about a moment in the amazing sitcom Ted Lasso with the titular character being played by Jason Sudeikis. His words ring true about this moment of disappointment in that we can be sad. We can be angry. But there's nothing worse than being sad or angry, and being alone. MJHL players, coaches, and staff aren't alone in this, and we need to remember this moment so we can all move forward together. Here are Ted's words about how to deal with this moment.

Let's all be goldfish today.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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