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WSHL terminates season due to COVID-19

Coaching staff and players disappointed following abrupt end to the season
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The Barrhead Bombers season came to an end after the Western States Hockey League (WSHL) due to concerns over COVID-19. Barry Kerton/BL

BARRHEAD - It isn’t how they wanted their season to end.

On Thursday, March 12, just before taking the ice for practice Barrhead Bombers general manager and head coach Todd White learned that the Western States Hockey League (WSHL) had suspended its season due to the coronavirus (COVID-19).

The WSHL is a Tier II junior hockey league that has 20 teams mostly in the United States. It differs from traditional junior hockey leagues in that it is a tuition-based league, in that its players have to pay a fee to play.

The 2019-2020 season was the Bombers’ inaugural season having been relocated from Long Beach, Calif.

“The WSHL with 26 seasons under its belt has never found itself with the incredible decision it has had to deal with over the last week,” said commissioner and Barrhead Bombers owner Ron White. “What started as a regional issue in a distant country, has become “everyone’s” problem. With the spread globally of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) we like many industrial corporations, countries, states, national sports organizations find ourselves having to not only consider the safety of our membership but the community as a whole.”

The WSHL is just one of many sports leagues who have decided to cancel, suspend or delay operations, including the NBA, NHL, and Major League Baseball.

About 16 hours after the WSHL announcement, Alberta’s chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw prohibiting public gatherings of 250 people or greater.

Todd said although the announcement did not come as a surprise and that he supports the decision, he and the rest of the Bombers are disappointed the season had to end this way.

He added they were excited about their prospects going into the playoffs against their first-round opponents the Hinton Timberwolves.

Although the Bombers ended the regular season with 21 fewer wins than Hinton and were a full 60 points behind Hinton in the standings Todd said the team believed they had a good chance of upsetting their Provincial Division rival.

In their last five games against the Barrhead sports a 1-4 record against the Timberwolves, the latest being a 5-4 overtime victory, with the majority of other games being decided by only one or two goals.

“It has been a long progression to get where we are, coming from last place in the [Provincial] division, cementing third place and going into the playoffs and be competitive with a top team like Hinton that is what makes this stoppage that more difficult,” Todd said.

As for what happens now, he said, the coaching staff is looking for ways to get their players home. The Barrhead Leader spoke to Todd when he was driving home, in Edmonton, from the team’s last practice.

The Bombers have players from the U.S., Ukraine as well as various Canadian provinces. He said finding flights, even with Canada were getting hard to schedule.

“We are going to have to book their flights as soon as possible because we’ve already checked into it and 70 per cent of Ukraine’s borders have already been shut down,” he said, adding he isn’t sure how the recently announced U.S. travel ban would impact international flights.

Todd also said he is not sure how the COVID-19 virus will impact the Bombers’ efforts to prepare for next season, noting so far the club’s ID camp in Enoch is still set for May 2-3.

He is hopeful that the virus won’t prevent him from his player recruitment efforts in Europe and elsewhere, saying he had a European trip planned to recruit potential recruits.

“But the way things are going, my plans might change,” Todd said.

He also wanted to thank all the volunteers and fans who supported the team throughout the year.

“I look forward to working and seeing everyone again next season,” Todd said.

“We are going to have to book their flights as soon as possible because we’ve already checked into it and 70 per cent of Ukraine’s borders have already been shut down,” he said, adding he isn’t sure how the recently announced U.S. travel ban would impact international flights.

Todd also said he is not sure how the COVID-19 virus will impact the Bombers’ efforts to prepare for next season, noting so far the club’s ID camp in Enoch, AB is still set for May 2-3.

He is hopeful that the virus won’t prevent him from his player recruitment efforts in Europe and elsewhere, saying he had a European trip planned to recruit potential recruits.

“But the way things are going, my plans might change,” Todd said.

He also wanted to thank all the volunteers and fans who supported the team throughout the year.

Barry Kerton, TownandCountryToday.com

 





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