For the first time in 102 years, there will not be a showdown to determine Canada’s major junior hockey champion.
The 2020 Memorial Cup has been added to the list of cancelled sporting events in Canada due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Canadian Hockey League calling off the tournament and league playoffs on Monday.
The 102nd edition of the event was scheduled to run May 22-31 in Kelowna, B.C., to decide a CHL champion.
“From our perspective, it’s very disheartening,” Kelowna Rockets president/general manager Bruce Hamilton said.
The CHL said in a statement it simply had no way to move forward.
“We have continued to monitor the latest updates and advice from all public health agencies and medical experts, and worked tirelessly to determine a scenario by which the balance of our season could be played,” the statement said. ”Unfortunately, given the troubling state of our global climate and public welfare, there is still too much risk and uncertainty to move forward in good conscience.”
The four-team event was to be hosted by the Western Hockey League’s Rockets alongside the WHL champion, Ontario Hockey League champion and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champion. The three leagues feature a combined 60 teams across Canada and the U.S.
The format of the tournament has changed many times since the trophy was first awarded to the Canadian junior champions in 1919, with the modern four-team format — three league champs and a host city — introduced in 1983.
The QMJHL champion Rouyn-Noranda Huskies won the Memorial Cup in 2019.
Kelowna was awarded the tournament in the fall of 2018, and was optimistic about the impact a 10-day event would have on the city.
Beyond junior hockey games, numerous fan events were planned and country music star Brett Kissel was to headline a concert on the tournament’s final weekend.
The CHL originally suspended play on March 12 amid the coronavirus outbreak, and followed up by cancelling the remainder of the regular season last Wednesday. At the time the league said in a statement it was its “hope that the event will continue as scheduled.”
A 2021 host city has yet to be determined. Oshawa and Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., were given the green light to advance in the bid process earlier this year by the OHL, which will host the event.
“We’ll get it again, I’m hopeful and confident,” Hamilton said. “But that’s a bridge we’ll cross on another day.”
Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran said it was looking like a big sports and tourism season for the community in British Columbia’s Okanagan until the pandemic struck.
The world mixed doubles curling championship and the senior world curling championship were also cancelled because of COVID-19.
“It’s obviously the right thing to do but just certainly another disappointment in what is a number of disappointments,” Mayor Colin Basran said.
“I feel a lot of sadness too for the committees and volunteers who did so much work to get these events for our community and with no real guarantee that these events will be back.”
The 2021 Tim Hortons Brier remains scheduled to take place in Kelowna.
— With files from Amy Smart in Vancouver.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 23, 2020.
The Canadian Press