How COVID-19 is affecting Winnipeg and Manitoba hockey communities
WINNIPEG -- It was announced on Thursday that both the National Hockey League and American Hockey League will be suspending their seasons due to COVID-19.
Mark Chipman, executive chairman of True North Sports and Entertainment said it is too early to tell whether the NHL and AHL seasons are postponed or cancelled completely.
"While there is a strong desire to resume play when and if possible, we have already begun to address what these very-necessary decisions mean for our teams, our arena, our employees and our fans who watch games at Bell MTS Place," said Chipman.
He said he has asked the Winnipeg Jets to return to the city from Alberta. He said the Manitoba Moose will return to Winnipeg from Milwaukee, Minnesota. The players will then be asked to head to their homes in Winnipeg and await further instructions.
Chipman said the players will be paid on the interim.
He said True North is also in regular contact with its 300 full-time and 1,200 part-time employees on what will come next. Chipman said there have been no layoffs as a result of COVID-19.
Chipman said he was asked about a week ago to start thinking of contingency plans for the Jets and the Moose. He said the decision to suspend the season was not difficult at all.
"Both league meetings were very brief," he said. "Frankly, there is a great deal of work to do to sort those details out on such short notice."
Following those announcement, the Canadian Hockey League also announced that the rest of the season will be paused, which means the Brandon Wheat Kings and Winnipeg ICE will not be playing games for the foreseeable future.
Manitoba High School Athletic Association also announced that due to COVID-19 concerns, it would be cancelling all hockey and basketball provincial championships. As well, all badminton and other school sports activities have been suspended until further notice.
Hockey Winnipeg also released a statement saying all events will proceed as planned, but the organization will continue to monitor all developments related to the virus.
Hockey Winnipeg is recommending all players fist bump with gloves on and not shake hands, water bottles shouldn't be shared and they should be kept clean. Players are told to not spit at any time, and if they are feeling ill they should stay home.
Amid concerns over COVID-19, Hockey Manitoba has cancelled all sanctioned games and programs effective immediately. Hockey Manitoba said it is following Hockey Canada’s decision.
“After much consultation with the Hockey Canada membership, our chief medical officer and public health officials, the Hockey Canada Board of Directors has made the decision to cancel all Hockey Canada-sanctioned activities, including our national championships, until further notice,” said a statement from Hockey Canada.
The cancellations are effective as of Friday, March 13. Hockey Manitoba said all games being played Thursday night can be played until completion, which is in line with Hockey Canada’s decision.
“We recognize the tremendous effort that has been put forth all year by individuals across the country as they participate in Canada’s game. 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,” said Hockey Canada.
The Manitoba Junior Hockey League also announced Thursday night it cancelled its playoffs until further notice due to the pandemic, in order to protect players, team staff members, on and off-ice officials, volunteers, and fans.
The MJHL made the announcement in partnership with Hockey Canada and the Canadian Junior Hockey League.
This includes each of its 10 member league’s playoffs, as well as the four regional championship events, and the Centennial Cup Canadian National Junior A Championship, which was scheduled to take place in Portage la Prairie in May.