COVID concern has MJHL schedule in disarray

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The 2020-21 MJHL season started with only a few minor bumps during its opening three weeks.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 04/11/2020 (645 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The 2020-21 MJHL season started with only a few minor bumps during its opening three weeks.

That all changed Friday with an announcement that the metro Winnipeg area was being moved to code red status, and three days later when a player on the OCN Blizzard tested positive for COVID-19. 

On Tuesday, OCN’s Thursday-Friday doubleheader with the Oil Caps in Virden was postponed.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES OCN Blizzard’s Thursday-Friday doubleheader with the Oil Caps in Virden was postponed when an OCN player tested positive for COVID-19.

Weekend twin bills between the Swan Valley Stampeders and Selkirk Steelers, Winnipeg Blues and Waywayseecappo Wolverines, and Winnipeg Freeze and Neepawa Natives were also postponed. Selkirk and both Winnipeg teams are prohibited from playing or practising by code red restrictions. 

In another scheduling change, Virden and Swan Valley will now meet Friday night at the home of the Oil Caps.

A two-game series between the Dauphin Kings and Portage Terriers was postponed Wednesday night. Also late Wednesday, both games of a twin bill between the Steinbach Pistons and Winkler Flyer were postponed “due to precautionary health concerns.”

No makeup dates were announced.

Meanwhile, the Wolverines and Natives will now face each other Friday in Neepawa and Saturday in Wayway.

League commissioner Kevin Saurette did not respond to an interview request from the Free Press on Wednesday but Peter Woods, executive director of Hockey Manitoba, was willing to weigh in on recent developments.

“(The MJHL was) putting in mechanisms within their program (with) the breaks they’ve scheduled and planning in the event that something like that could come up,” said Woods.

“So they were very responsible on how they addressed this issue. I think they’ve done a great job in that respect.”

After one positive test in OCN, Woods said he was unaware of any other MJHL personnel being infected.

“I think it’s inevitable that there’s going to be cases,” said Woods.

“It’s just ensuring… do we have mechanisms in place to deal with those (situations), isolating an individual right away (and) ensuring that you get tested? And make sure that you’re aware of your contact tracing. So all those things that have been put in place are important.”

Woods’ organization oversees all of minor hockey in the province and Monday night he met with communications officers from each of Hockey Manitoba’s regions and leagues.

One of their latest objectives is to collect information on COVID-19 cases within the sport.

“When we’re challenged by public health with saying there’s a spread within the sport, we have a better idea of where it’s coming from and whether they are accurate recordings,” he said. “Because our data could be different than what public health could be because of how they calculate sanctioned versus non-sanctioned programming.”

Woods said forms will be distributed and he expects to see a report soon. 

“We don’t need to know the names of individuals — that’s an invasion of privacy,” said Woods. “But if we could get reporting on say, the location or where they come from, that would be helpful.”

Provincial health has suggested Winnipeg’s code red status will be reviewed on Nov. 15. Woods is optimistic a return to orange with the rest of the province is possible.

“We’ll see over the next couple days whether (a lower number of cases announced Monday) was just an aberration or we’re catching up on late reported cases today,” said Woods.

“If we continue to trend in that direction, and it’s come down significantly from Friday, that would be positive. And that would cause for public health to re-evaluate their situation for all programs, not just hockey.”

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Reporter

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

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