Hockey teams from the Cowichan Valley and Kerry Park associations had their dreams of competing at the provincials championships dashed last week when BC Hockey cancelled all of its championships for the 2019-20 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Cowichan peewee T2 team was scheduled to travel to Penticton for provincials, and the Kerry Park peewee T3 squad was supposed to head to Quesnel for their tournament, both on March 15-20. Cowichan’s juvenile team was also planning to host a best-of-three series against Chilliwack on March 14-15 for their provincial title.
All three teams had their events cancelled on Friday, March 13, when BC Hockey followed the direction of Hockey Canada and suspended operations — including 17 provincial championships — until further notice.
“It was pretty devastating for the team,” Kerry Park peewee coach Darren VanOene said. “When I told my son, it was quite a shock. I know all the players, and most of them took it pretty hard.”
The players found out about the cancellation the day before they were supposed to leave for Quesnel. VanOene was disappointed for his players that the opportunity was taken away so abruptly after working so hard all season for what could very well be a once-in-a-lifetime trip.
“It might be the last opportunity any of them have for that,” he said.
VanOene played for several championships during his own hockey career, so he is well aware of what it means for the participants.
“Knowing how special those moments are, I felt bad for the kids missing out on that,” he said.
The Cowichan juvenile team was in its first season of existence, and earned the right to host the provincial series by winning the Island banner on March 1. The players were well prepared for provincials, even researching the players on the opposing team. They were aware of the potential for a cancellation, but were optimistic the series would be played.
“We thought when it really got close that we were going to be able to play.”
Several of the juvenile players had played in midget provincials earlier in their careers, but that was still little consolation.
“For a lot of these guys, this might be their last opportunity,” Mazurenko said. “You work all season to get a chance, and it’s out of your control.”
Like Mazurenko, VanOene had been holding out hope that his team’s tournament would still go ahead, but he completely understands why the decision was made to cancel it.
“After sitting back and seeing what’s been going on in the last few days, I don’t know what they could have done,” VanOene said on Wednesday. “There are bigger things to take care of than hockey right now. Sometimes life isn’t fair; that’s the way it plays out.”