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Alberta

Future of junior football murky as Covid-19 forces cancellation of season

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This simple equation is perhaps the easiest way to enter a description of the Wednesday decision, and Thursday public announcement, that the Canadian Junior Football League has dropped all plans for games this year.

CJFL president Jim Pankovich made it clear that the decision by the Prairie Junior Football Conference and allied leagues in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia supported the decision unanimously.

“Canadian junior football has 18 teams with 18 different ideas — no, make it 18 teams with about 50 ideas — but this was a combined decision and every organization had a chance to provide input,” Pankovich continued. “It has been a long process.”

The Edmonton Huskies, Edmonton Wildcats and Calgary Colts are affected by the decision. All teams were part of the national negotiation.

Coupled with a previous USports decision to wipe out university football across the country in 2020, the junior move leaves only the Canadian Football League as an option for players and fans, with a decision due from the struggling CFL soon, after a bid for $30 million in federal support money is evaluated.

Pankovich, Prairie Football Conference leader Curtis Craig and Edmonton Huskies owner Bob Bula mentioned in separate telephone conversations Thursday afternoon that the COVID-19 regulations made it impossible to consider a 2020 season. All three mentioned the importance of keeping players involved .

“:Small-group sessions and skill-specific training” were mentioned by Pankovich as a necessity for all teams. He and others mentioned that the game is as important for the lessons it provides to young males as it is for the actual on-field competition.

As soon as the announcement became public, there was serious suggestion that high school players hoping to move into junior ranks and current juniors designing their athletic future around possible participation in university programs.may run into traffic jams because eligibility issues are more complicated than before.

Huskies head coach Iain MacLean agreed fully with the decision: “it’s about the safety of our players and all the others who would have to work with us during the virus.”

He lamented that “this will be the first year of my life without a football season since I was 10 years old” and suggested there will be less pressure than anticipated on young players competing against more potential teammates than usual.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if quite a few of the young guys just stop playing,” he added, “and I think a lot of coaches will be considering the same thing.”

Bula insisted that there was no opposition to government regulations that limit the number of persons — 50 in any on-field cohort at one time — able to participate in games. “We might need as many as 100 or more, including other staff.”

Craig, who also is vice-president of the national governing body, said no Prairie team has the potential to develop a “hub” similar to those now employed by the National Hockey League and National Basketball Association.

For CFL fans the last refuge is always hope

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Alberta

Positive COVID-19 tests at world men's curling championship deemed “false positives”

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CALGARY — The four positive COVID-19 tests that interrupted the men’s world curling championship are considered “false positives” from potentially contaminated samples, according to the World Curling Federation.

The men’s championship concluded late Sunday night with Sweden’s Niklas Edin winning a record fifth world men’s title.

No games were played Saturday because four participants, including one from a playoff team, tested positive for the virus in “exit” tests before leaving Calgary’s curling bubble. 

None had symptoms of the illness.

All have tested negative in multiple re-tests since then, the WCF said Monday in a statement. All tests were conducted via PCR throat swabs.

“According to Alberta Health, PCR testing remains the gold standard for COVID-19 testing,” the WCF said. “Very rarely, there are occurrences through sampling or testing processes when samples may become contaminated and a false positive may result.

“Following an investigation over the weekend, it appears that this may have occurred in this case and follow-up testing was undertaken.”

All athletes and personnel considered close contacts of the four underwent testing Saturday with all results negative. 

Every playoff team member was tested before and after each game Sunday with those results also negative, the WCF said. Hotel staff were also tested Sunday and cleared.

“With the original four positive test results now deemed as false positives, the integrity of the Calgary bubble remains intact,” the WCF declared.

“The change also allows international athletes who were considered close contacts, and who would have had to remain in isolation in Calgary for 14 days, will now be able to depart Calgary.”

The fifth of seven events in Calgary’s curling hub, the Humpty’s Champions Cup, gets underway Thursday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 12, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Pulling the plug: Edmonton Folk Music Festival cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic

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EDMONTON — Despite Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s hope that the COVID-19 vaccine will allow summer events like the Calgary Stampede to go ahead, the Edmonton Folk Music Festival has been cancelled

The festival says in a statement that without full vaccination, people won’t be entirely safe from the spread of COVID-19. 

It says that with virus variants and an uncertain vaccine rollout, the impossibility of social distancing at the outdoor festival could lead to community spread.

Kenney has said that two-thirds of the population should have a vaccine shot by the end of June and things should begin to feel back-to-normal.

He says the Stampede, which is held in early July, along with sporting events and other festivals will be possible.

The Edmonton Folk Music Festival says it will continue to offer online content and, if small gatherings are permitted, it hopes to add some community engagement.

“With so many variables at play, the complexity of planning and delivering a festival of our size makes it impossible to move forward in our usual manner,” the statement said Monday.

“As profoundly disappointing as this news is, we believe this is the only safe way forward. The safety of our patrons, volunteers, and artists was of paramount importance in coming to this conclusion.”

The annual four-day festival in the city’s Gallagher Park usually attracts thousands of music fans and boasts approximately 2,700 volunteers.

Alberta introduced new health rules last week, closing restaurants to in-person dining and further reducing customer capacity at retail stores in response to rising COVID-19 numbers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 12, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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