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The sports shutdown in Newfoundland and Labrador

The cancellation of the 2019-20 season by Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador ends any debate about how the 2020 Herder Memorial Trophy provincial senior championship should have been conducted.
The cancellation of the 2019-20 season by Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador ends any debate about how the 2020 Herder Memorial Trophy provincial senior championship should have been conducted. — Saltwire Network file photo/The Packet

An update on coronavirus-related suspensions, cancellations and postponements affecting athletes in this province

If you’re asking what sporting and athletics events in Newfoundland and Labrador have been affected by the Covid-19/coronavirus pandemic, the short answer is just about everything.

There are exceptions. For example, the provincial under-18 curling championships which began earlier this week at the Bally Haly Club in St. John’s and are scheduled to wind up Sunday, were still ongoing as of Friday.

As well, recreational leagues and teams not associated with provincial and national sports governing organizations would not be subject to association edicts on coronavirus-related postponements and cancellations. However, closure or restricted access to gymnasium and recreational facilities province-wide would certainly limit their options.

As well, public health officials continue to issue warnings about the health risks associated with any groups of people in close contact with each other.

The coronavirus is spread through respiratory droplets from the nose and mouth, droplets that are more prevalent and widespread when exercising or competing.

Even then, most sanctioned sports and recreational activity in the province are on hold, from skiing at Marble Mountain on the west coast to pro hockey and basketball at Mile One Centre in St. John’s, and almost everything else located everywhere in between.

Here’s a rundown of developments with regard to provincial sports and recreation:

Newfoundland Growlers

After the ECHL indefinitely suspended its season, the defending Kelly Cup champions returned to St. John’s early Friday morning from the midst of a road trip and now await further instructions from the league.

An ECHL board of governors conference call was expected late Friday or today, with the main question expected to be about whether the regular season — which had been scheduled to end in mid April — should be cancelled entirely and if so, would there still be the possibility of a post-season sometime in the future.

That decision will probably determine whether Growlers players will remain in a team setting in St. John’s or be freed to go to their off-season homes.

North Division-leading Newfoundland has 12 regular-season games remaining, six of them at home

Meanwhile, the Growlers posted the following FAQ update on their website Friday:

“The Newfoundland Growlers have taken note of the ECHL's decision to suspend the season as of Thursday, March 12. The Club supports this decision, which is focused on controlling the risk of spreading the virus. We take the health and safety of our fans and spectators seriously, and the same standard applies to our players and employees.

“We wish to thank our fans for their support and understanding.

“Please see below for answers to some frequently asked questions regarding the League's announcement.”

• I am a Season Ticket Holder. What should I do?

All tickets remain valid for postponed games. If any games are cancelled, details about refunds and credits will be communicated at that time. Growlers Season Ticket Holders will receive a communication detailing the new Membership Package for the 2020-21 season shortly as our staff continue to elevate the Growlers Season Membership for a third straight year. 

• I have tickets for an upcoming game. What should I do?

Ticket owners are invited to keep their tickets for the games initially slated for March 17, 18, 20, 21, 27 and 28. Ticket owners will be contacted at a later date with further details, as events unfold. All tickets remain valid for postponed games. If any games are cancelled, details about refunds and credits will be communicated at that time.

To inquire about credits or refunds, contact the Mile One Centre box office by phone at 576-7657 or by emailing [email protected]

• Are Community events and player appearances still going ahead?

At this time, all community events and player appearances have been suspended until further notice.

• Is the team store still open?

The official team store of the Newfoundland Growlers will remain closed at this time. The scheduled "Gear up for the Playoffs" opening times previously scheduled for March 14th and 22nd have been cancelled. Growlers fans can continue to shop via our online store located at 

• Will the Growlers still be practicing?

No team practices will be held until further notice.

St. John’s Edge

Like the Growlers, the National Basketball League of Canada’s Edge saw their regular-season suspended Thursday while they were on the road.

And like their hockey brethren, the Edge players are awaiting further clarification from their league as to whether there will be retained expectation of games — regular-season and/or playoffs — being played sometime in the future.

The league’s owners/board of governors are expected to meet via a conference call Monday.

The Edge, who have an 11-9 record, have 16 regular-season games remaining on their 2019-20 schedule. Ten of those games were set to be played at Mile One Centre.

Like the Growlers, the Edge have suspended all team activity and practices.

On Friday, Edge head coach Steve Marcus posted the following ion his Twitter account (@Steve_Paco):

“While the initial reaction (at the season suspension) is to be frustrated and disappointed … there is necessary perspective that needs to quiet our emotions. We have a responsibility to do what is best for our team, league and most importantly the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. “

Amateur hockey

As a result of a decision by Hockey Canada Thursday, all tournaments, leagues, games, try-outs camps, programs and other activities sanctioned by that body, and in turn, Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador, have been cancelled.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, that includes suspending the seasons of the East Coast and West Coast senior hockey leagues, St. John’s Junior Hockey League and provincial major midget hockey league, all which were in the midst of playoffs.

As well, provincial minor AAA and AA tourneys are cancelled, and while Hockey Canada’s statement Thursday said such cancellations are “until further notice,” it also means the annual provincial Eastern tournaments set for next month will not go ahead. A clarification from Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador Friday indicated the entire “2019-20 season is cancelled,” adding ominously that the “cancellation may extend beyond 2019-20.”

As a sidebar, the Hockey Canada decision takes away a dilemma facing HNL, which had been debating how to proceed with regard to the Herder Memorial Trophy provincial senior championship.

The ECSHL was the only operating circuit in the province with teams rated/sanctioned for Herder participation, but there had been those who felt a way should be found to extend Herder competition beyond the end-of-the-season outcome of one league.

The cancellation of the current hockey season has made that debate a moot point … at least for this year.

Varsity school sports

The following was released by School Sports Newfoundland and Labrador on Friday:

“In light of the current public health situation involving COVID-19, and in support of the NLESD (Newfoundland and Labrador English School District) and other school and community sport organizations, as of today, March 13, 2020, School Sports NL will be suspending all programs which involve interaction between schools.

“All Varsity qualification and provincial tournaments, including Hoopla 2020, scheduled for March 19-22 and March 26-29 will not be going ahead as planned. In addition, all boys ball hockey qualifiers scheduled for March 20-22 are also suspended. Any in-school activities, such as practices are permitted.

“We will continue to evaluate the public health situation in making decisions regarding to the reinstatement of the Varsity program.

“No contingency plans have been put in place at this time to reschedule any cancelled or postponed events, as we will not know where, when, or if that is possible until the public health situation improves. “We will do our best to keep schools updated as the things change.

“The SSNL Participation Nation programs, which involve in-school programming PN Unplugged, PN Play 4 Fun and PN Core Activities, will continue at the discretion of each school administration. Other PN activities, Jamborees and Festivals of Sport will not go ahead until further notice.

We certainly understand the frustration and disappointment for students but we have to follow the advice and direction from health professionals and do our part to ensure the safety of our students, coaches, volunteers, officials and fans.”


Swimming Newfoundland and Labrador president Bill Hogan posted the following on the organization’s website Friday:

“Swimming NL has just received the following notice from Memorial University regarding altered University programming as a result of the growing concerns about the Covid-19 virus in the community: ’Non-essential gatherings and external events of more than 25 people should be cancelled or postponed.’

“As such, the 2020 Swimming NL Provincial Championships and the Future League Finale scheduled for March 20-22, 2020 is now postponed until further notice. Details on an alternate date will be discussed and information shared with our membership as soon as possible.

“Swimming NL will continue to take guidance from the Department of Health and Community Services, relevant Public Health Agencies, Swimming Canada, and Memorial University in supporting our clubs. You can be assured that we will continue to keep you updated as often as possible.

“The health and safety of our swimmers, coaches, volunteers, staff and spectators is, as always, our top priority.

Basketball and volleyball

Both the Newfoundland and Labrador Volleyball Association(NLVA) and Basketball Newfoundland and Labrador (BNL) have announced the indefinite suspension all scheduled upcoming provincial championships and other activities.

This from the NLVA:

“ In light of the ongoing concern resulting from the coronavirus (COVID-19), and in support of suggested recommendations from health authorities regarding limiting the spread of the virus, The Newfoundland and Labrador Volleyball Association has decided to suspend all Provincial Championships and Provincial Team ID Camps until further notice.

“The safety and health of the participants, officials and conveners are our highest priority.

Speaking specifically about the provincial senior championships, which were to have been played in Gander this weekend, the NLVA outlined other factors that contributed to cancellation of the event:

• All other PSO (provincial sports organizations) activities have been cancelled in NL.

• All extracurricular school activities have been cancelled until further notice. As a result, we do not have access to school gymnasiums this weekend.

•˜We have been fielding a number of concerns from teams and individuals about exposure at the event.

Track and field/road racing

The Newfoundland and Labrador Athletic Association has announced it has cancelled Meet 3 of the 2020 Indoor Track Series that had been scheduled for today.

As well, the NLAA says it is postponing the start of registration for the 2020 Telegram 10-Mile Road Race.

NLAA executive director George Stanoev says this is not because there is an expectation the Tely 10, scheduled for July 26, would not go ahead or be postponed, but because the organization’s concentration and that of prospective Tely 10 runners should be on other matters at the present.

The online registration was to begin on March 18 and although that process would not involve any health risks, Stanoev said it was felt that it would be right to postpone for now,

“There is so much happening and so much that is changing day to day, even hour to hour, that people need to focus on staying healthy and on dealing with everything going on,” said Stanoev.

“We still plan on having a successful Tely 10 on July 26, but we also felt delaying the registration for now was the right thing to do.”

[email protected]

Twitter: @telysports

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