The impact of COVID-19 on U SPORTS

Collating a tumultuous week of U SPORTS cancellations

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Businesses, corporations, education systems and even professional sports leagues are on hold until further notice to combat the spread of COVID-19—and U SPORTS are no exception.

Canadian universities across the country are closing their doors and U SPORTS has prudently decided to follow suit. Several of the league’s various championship events were cancelled in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

As a former U SPORTS football player, and someone who currently spends most of their time writing about U SPORTS football, I’ll be honest: the first time I realized the impact this virus was going to have on U SPORTS, it was football-related.

On March 12, the Canadian Football League (CFL) stunned the football community by issuing a statement announcing it would be cancelling its National Combine, Regional Combine, and all subsequent scouting events.

The CFL Combine was unfortunately just the first on the chopping block as cancellations began to sweep through U SPORTS. In addition to the cancellation of the scouting combine, there have been four championship cancellations in U SPORTS as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The 2020 Cavendish Farms Cup, the U SPORTS men’s hockey championship, was slated to happen in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and the 2020 Women’s Cavendish Farms Cup would have taken place in Charlottetown, P.E.I. The championships were officially cancelled on March 12.

The 2020 U SPORTS men’s volleyball championships were also shut down. The tournament was set to take place at the University of Manitoba and would have featured Queen’s.

The Gaels were scheduled to square off against the McMaster Marauders in the first round of the tournament. The Gaels took a 3-0 win against the Marauders in their only matchup of regular season play, and a 3-2 win against them in the OUA Semifinals.

Additionally, the 2020 women’s volleyball championship tournament was cancelled. The women’s tournament was to be hosted by the University of Calgary.

International university sporting events have also had to be cancelled due to the outbreak of COVID-19. The 2020 World University Speed Skating Championship, which was to be hosted in Amsterdam, Netherlands, was called off, and the World University Cross Country Championship to be held in Morocco was too.

Queen’s Kara Blair and Marley Beckett were scheduled to run in Morocco, and they were going to be coached by former Queen’s assistant coach Brant Stachel. Laval University’s Antoine Roger was set to participate in the 500-metre, 1,000-metre, and 1,500-metre speed skating events prior to its cancellation.

One event that did take place was the 2020 U SPORTS Curling Championships. The tournament took place in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, from March 11 to 15, and the Gaels women’s team came away with a bronze after defeating McMaster 7 to 5.

U SPORTS has since released a statement regarding athlete recruitment. In brief, the statement follows in the same vein as previous COVID-19 statements—U SPORTS recruiters will be taken off the road immediately and will be unable to conduct in-person evaluations or visits until further notice.

It’s incredibly disappointing to see these championship events cancelled, knowing all the hard work that goes into making them so enjoyable for U SPORTS fans and athletes alike.

However, for the athletes, it’s that much more devastating. The players set to participate in their respective championships had worked tirelessly for months to reach the national stage, only to have it cancelled just days before the events—while they were already at the host venues.

While it was a difficult decision to make, it was certainly the correct decision and the one that needed to be made. As sports fanatics, fans want to see the events played, but the health and safety of our country and of other countries must take precedent.

Here’s a tip for those of you who have the no-U SPORTS-blues: the 2009 Queen's Vanier Cup Win over the Calgary Dinos is on YouTube in its entirety. Thank me later.

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