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This is not the fluidity sport was looking for
2020-03-14

Fluid is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as being "subject to change or movement".

Somehow, that description does not seem to do complete justice to the reality of the current sports environment in Canada.

Five Great North Midget League teams, along with the host club, had already made their way to Kapuskasing on Wednesday, beginning play on their four-day tournament style playoff weekend that would crown a qualifier for the Central Ontario Midget AAA Regionals, when news came that the event would be halted.

In fact, participants were enjoying a year-end banquet for the first time in forever, Thursday night, when cell phones across the room erupted with the news of the Hockey Canada decision to cancel all remaining competition for all of their affiliates for the remainder of the 2019-2020 season.

That scene was played out, as well, in both Prince Edward Island and Halifax (Nova Scotia), with the schedule of quarter-final match-ups for both the U Sport Men's and Women's Hockey Championships cut short at the midway point, with two of the four games at both venues in the books before the decision came to send all participating teams back home.

This year will be remembered as the year in which league, provincial and national champions were simply not crowned. Life in the world of all those involved in sports has changed quickly, and continues to do so.

The opening round of the NOJHL playoffs was already complete, with game one of an East Division series also in the books and the Rayside-Balfour Canadians and Soo Eagles gathered in Chelmsford, mere hours from kicking off their best of seven affair, when the plug was pulled, the playoffs suspended.

Less than 24 hours later, a "pause" on the NOJHL post-season had given way to scrapping the campaign completely. "The NOJHL fully supports the decision made by Hockey Canada and the Canadian Junior Hockey League to cancel the remainder of the season," stated commissioner Robert Mazzuca in a league-issued release.

"We remain fully committed to the health and safety of our players, on and off-ice officials, staffs, volunteers, dedicated fans and the general public, and will maintain doing so as the world continues to deal with this global crisis," Mazzuca added.

The wording might differ somewhat, but the message is essentially all the same: COVID-19 has forced a full and complete shutdown of sports competition, as we know it. Few, if any, are questioning the necessity of this unprecedented action - not that this makes it an easier pill to swallow for all those who have invested literally hundreds of hours in anticipation of their moment to shine.

Just four days ago, I chatted with athletes, coaches and administrators of the Sudbury Sprinters speed skating club, anxiously awaiting their chance to strut their stuff at the Provincial "B" Championships, scheduled to be hosted at the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex on March 21st and 22nd.

Like pretty much every other indoor hockey ice surface in the country, the south end facility will sit vacant, or very close to vacant, for the foreseeable future.

The speed at which sport governing bodies have had to alter their game plan has been nothing short of astounding. Some time Thursday morning, I came across an update from the Ontario Lacrosse Association that essentially acknowledged concern over the rapidly spreading virus, but urged a variety of steps to limit the risk, all while allowing teams to continue practicing and such.

Then I noticed the release was dated March 11th.

About three hours later, the March 13th OLA release fell in lock-step with several others that were circulating. "As of today, we have made the difficult but necessary decision to direct our leagues to pause all sanctioned in-person lacrosse activities (try-outs, training sessions, scrimmages, practices, games, etc.), effective immediately and until April 5th, 2020", read the release.

That matches the timeline of the cancellation of classes at elementary and secondary schools in Ontario, and by extension, all high-school activities during the same period. Swimming Canada has confirmed that all national events through at least April 20th will be cancelled or postponed, including the Olympic and Paralympic Swimming Trials.

At this point in time, the Curling Canada website noted only that the 2020 Under-18 Canadian Curling Championships, in Sudbury, from April 20th-25th, will be re-evaluated in the coming days.

Be sure to stay tuned, as it's a given that things will change daily.

Or remain "fluid", if you will.

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