While the Western Hockey League has “paused” the season until further notice, there are few details about what this means for the Victoria Royals going forward.
Cameron Hope, president and general manager of the Royals, addressed the concerns in a brief press conference outside the Royals’ dressing room on Thursday afternoon. According to Hope there are no players or staff within the WHL that have any kind of infection, but he says the move to pause the season is a smart one.
“Were in the business of gathering people together and being in close quarters and we’ve dealt with infections and mumps and those sorts of things before in the past and all the protocols are in place to minimize this sort of a thing,” he said. “But when it gets to be a global situation, everybody needs to accept their role.”
Hope said it’s too soon to tell how the pause would affect the playoffs but expects more information to come next week when officials have a better understanding of the COVID-19 situation.
“I think the players are disappointed obviously, but I think they understand what the situation is and like all of us, we take our cues from the league and from those making the recommendations,” he said, adding that teams would stay together while in the “holding pattern for now.”
The Royals were scheduled to take on the Prince George Cougars on Friday and Saturday, but both games have been canceled. The province has since banned all events with more than 250 people amid the growing concerns about the spread of COVID-19. As of Thursday, the total number of confirmed cases in the province was 53 and one death.
The NHL, the Canadian Hockey League, along with the other two regional leagues — Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the Ontario Hockey League — have all paused their seasons as well.
“The WHL takes the safety of our players, officials, staff, fans, and everyone associated with the WHL very seriously. We will continue to monitor ongoing public health developments regarding COVID-19. Our goal is to return to play when it is safe and reasonable to do so,” said Ron Robison, WHL commissioner.
Hope said officials were currently in talks about reimbursing ticket holders but said more details would come next week, but he asks fans to be patient.
“Every time the Victoria Royals play it’s the largest gathering of people on Vancouver Island that day, it’s what we’re in the business of doing and we like to put these events on — they’re enjoyable and healthy and positive events, free of distraction — and we can’t wait to get back to that,” said Hope.
— With files from Katya Slepian, The Canadian Press and Ashley Wadhwani