Monday, 30 March 2020

WWCFL season cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic

Valkyries R Haley Girolami is a nurse in Saskatoon.
    The Western Women’s Canadian Football League will have to wait a year before enjoying a milestone 10th season.
    On Monday, WWCFL announced in a release its 2020 season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The WWCFL’s executive and board met via a conference call on Sunday night and made a unanimous decision to call off the campaign.
    With regards to the cancellation, Monday’s release stated, “This decision was made based on a number of factors the primary of which being the health and safety of all those involved in our league. Additional factors included the financial ramifications the COVID-19 situation has had on our teams and players to this point and will continue to have, as well as the uncertainties posed by the situation overall.”
    The WWCFL hit the field for its inaugural campaign in 2011 and hadn’t missed crowning a league champion until this year.
    Main training camps for the WWCFL were expected to start around April 20 with regular season expected to kickoff about May 2.
    Last season, the Saskatoon Valkyries won their sixth WWCFL title downing the host Regina Riot 25-3 on June 29, 2019 at Mosaic Stadium. The Riot have won the WWCFL crown three times in their history.
    Overall last season, the Valkyries posted a 9-0 record closing the campaign by downing the Montreal Blitz 39-12 in an exhibition tilt at Saskatoon Minor Football Field on July 6, 2019.
    The 2020 season cancellation for the WWCFL follows a whole host of other cancellations and postponements in the sports and entertainment world. Even the 2020 Summer Olympic Games have been postponed for a start in July of 2021.
Valkyries OG Shelby Payne (#60) is a paramedic.
    The eight-team WWCFL is a working women’s league, which means the players are affect by numerous off field developments due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) breakout.
    It is pretty well known that significant layoffs have already occurred in a number of industries and a large number of businesses have seen a huge drop in daily revenues.
    The WWCFL faced challenges like most other leagues under the scare of COVID-19. Eventually, each league hits a date where decisions have to be made to cancel venue bookings in order to save money.
    On top of that, the WWCFL has to judge restrictions imposed by various levels of governments regarding large gatherings and travel could still be in place by the time the season comes around. With Saskatchewan under a state of emergency, all athletic facilities are currently closed and gatherings of over 10 people are banned.
    The WWCFL would have a hard time trying to push back the season, because the facilities they play out of have a good chance of being booked for other events.
    On top of all that, it is safe to assume the WWCFL likely saw a drop in sponsorship due to most businesses facing a revenue crunch at this time.
    Of course, the healthy and safety factor still comes down as the biggest reason to call things off.
    The Valkyries would be very conscientious about the health and safety factor. Receiver Haley Girolami, who had a breakout rookie season in last year’s WWCFL championship campaign, works as a nurse, and standout offensive guard Shelby Payne is paramedic in Saskatoon’s health system.
The Valkyries celebrate winning the WWCFL title last year.
    Both will likely have experienced the front line battles against the COVID-19 pandemic.
    The WWCFL release concluded stating, “We want to thank the players, coaches and staff of all of our teams for the work they’ve put in leading up to this season, as well as our fans, sponsors and volunteers for all of their support. We look forward to playing and celebrating the WWCFL’s 10th season in 2021.”
    Looking at all the factors, the WWCFL pretty much had no choice to pull the plug on the 2020 campaign. It likely won’t be the only league that has to make this tough choice.

CFL postpones training camps indefinitely

Cody Fajardo fires a pass downfield for the Roughriders.
    The COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to wreak havoc on the CFL’s football year.
    On Monday, the CFL announced that the start of the league’s training camps had been postponed indefinitely due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) breakout. Rookies had been scheduled to arrive on May 11 with a rookie camp start date set for May 13.
    Main training camps were set to open on May 17.
    In a statement, CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie said, “As for our future plans, we are in the hands of our public health officials, the advice they are providing governments and the directives those governments are issuing to us all, and we acknowledge their timetable will be dictated by the virus itself. We will make further decisions when we can and share them with our fans and the public as soon as possible.”
    The CFL had already cancelled two regional combines and its national combine. Its Global Draft, which was originally set for April 16, has been postponed to coincide with the start of training camps. Global players were to arrive in Toronto, Ont., for a combine before the Global Draft, but all of that is up in the air now.
    The CFL Draft remains scheduled for April 30.
Safety Mike Edem (#15) blitzes the quarterback for the Roughriders.
    On top of worrying about the health and safety of players, staff and fans, the CFL has to juggle with the possibility restrictions regarding gatherings of large crowds and travel could still be in place, when training camp activities were slated to start.
    Most of the CFL’s players and coaches come from the United States and the border between the United States and Canada is currently closed to non-essential travel. It is unclear what type of travel restrictions could be in place, when the CFL training camps are originally slated to open.
    In Monday’s statement, Ambrosie thanked the workers on the front line of health care and the supply chain.
    He said those in the CFL are “pragmatic optimists.”
    The statement closed with Ambrosie stating, “We continue to look forward to a CFL season and the Grey Cup.”
    During these uncertain times, it is still possible things could change to allow CFL training camps to start on time. Due to the fact the number of cases of COVID-19 are still rising, the CFL made the responsible decision to postpone training camps until further notice.
The Blue Bombers celebrate a TD last season.
    Of course, these developments are followed hard in Saskatchewan, which is home to the Saskatchewan Roughriders and their passionate Rider Nation fanbase.
    The last time the Grey Cup was not awarded was 1919 due to a lack of interest along with a rules dispute between the leagues that competed for the trophy at the time. The game was cancelled from 1916 to 1918 due to Canada’s participation in the First World War.
    The Winnipeg Blue Bombers downed the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 33-12 in last year’s Grey Cup held at McMahon Stadium in Calgary, Alta.
    This year’s Grey Cup is slated for Nov. 22 at Mosaic Stadium in Regina.

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Saturday, 28 March 2020

Madden 2008 finally came out in these COVID-19 days

I dug out Madden 2008 for the PlayStation 2.
    Madden 2008 made its first appearance at my household during these COVID-19 self-isolation times.
    On Friday night, I finally dug out the PlayStation 2 and fired up the Madden 2008 video game. The franchise I was using was in off-season mode, so I didn’t play any actual full out games.
    I spent a couple of hours working through the very realistic off-season that was created in the game. In future versions of Madden, the off-season was toned down to fit with the hyper fast life most of North American society lives.
    Still, real football geeks more tilted to the fantasy side love the off-season mode in Madden 2008. I like it too, but I normally wouldn’t find time to play through something like that.
With society being shut down, I have been in the home office lots.
    With society being shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I worked my off-season up to training camp and played through a couple of drills before packing it in for the night.
    Even just for playing the off-season, it was a fun change of pace.
    Over the past week, I think I have come to accept the fact the world won’t snap back to the way it was before the shutdowns that started to happen in North America on March 11 to try and prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
    At the moment, it is pretty safe to say the local sports world that I am involved in won’t be resuming normal activity for some time yet or at least until governments at all levels start lifting emergency measures and some travel restrictions.
I pulled out the Wayne Gretzky jersey on Thursday.
    While many things have shut down, I still kept busy this week. Usually, WHL playoffs would have started during this period of time, and I would be hyper busy.
    This week, I have been busy at a steady controllable pace.
    One thing I feel that has gone away for myself is the daily anxiety when it comes to checking messages and social media links for the first time each day. When the shutdowns first started to happen, I dreaded turning on any electronic device to see what new measures governments at any level might be bringing in.
    I like socializing, and I worried what it was going to be like to not be out at sporting events. A lot of my work involves getting out and meeting people.
    Over this past week, it hasn’t bothered me to work from home. Actually, most places I do to or spend time at away from home are now closed, so it is easy to spend time at home.
    With the extra time I have during the day, I have started into a habit of sleeping in. I’ve come to the conclusion that is allowing me to have the extra energy I need to carry on through the day and face anything that comes up.
I suspect I won’t be taking pictures of moments like these any time soon.
    Right now, there is so much uncertainty about how the world will unfold under the COVID-19 pandemic.
    The sports world, especially at the professional level, is really at the mercy of what governments elect to do with their emergency measures and travel bans.
    Even the Summer Olympic Games have been postponed until next year.
    Right now, there is so much speculation going around it is hard to know what to believe. There has been a fear the MLB, CFL, and U.S. college football seasons could be totally called off.
    I’ve heard speculation that society would be smart to stay in lockdown for a year.
    I’ve heard other speculation that this could let up in a month or two months.
The streets in my Saskatoon neighbourhood are quiet.
    Rod Pedersen, who does recovery and addictions work along with sports broadcasting, said and wrote the world is in a state of trauma.
    He said the two definitions of trauma he learned are “any situation your brain can’t comprehend,” or “a deeply distressing or disturbing event.”
    The COVID-19 pandemic is something the brain can’t comprehend, and it is an event that is deeply distressing or disturbing. I am pretty certain the world is experiencing trauma.
    As I have said before, I am just taking things day by day, because that is all anyone can control is how they react daily to something when it unfolds. The governments of the world have chosen their courses of action, and they aren’t going to change.
I’ve spent time reflecting and wondering when things will be normal.
    It feels weird to have not seen or covered a live sporting event since March 12.
    I try not to look too far ahead in the future, because that fuels anxiety. I am mindful that the world will likely be very different when the COVID-19 pandemic runs its course compared to where the world was before it started.
    In Canada, that last normal day was likely March 10.
    I hope this will be over by the middle of May, or the outlook will be better even two weeks from now. That is also an unknown.
    Until then, I just worry about finishing the most pressing task I need to get done that day, and try to spend some down time with family and friends.
    It is really the only way to proceed right now.

Robins cleans up on Blades awards, other notes

Tristen Robins won four Blades team awards.
    Tristen Robins was the man of the hour, when the Saskatoon Blades announced their team awards on Thursday night.
    The 18-year-old sophomore centre from Clear Lake, Man., had a breakout campaign leading the Blades in scoring with 33 goals and 40 assists for 73 points in 62 regular season games. Robins, who stands 5-foot-10 and weighs 173 pounds, posted a plus-16 rating in the plus-minus department.
    Thanks to his efforts, Robins was named the WHL team’s top defensive forward, the most gentlemanly player, best forward and most valuable player.
    Due to government restrictions against gatherings of over 10 people at the present time, the Blades weren’t able to hand out their team awards after the final game of their regular season or at a team function.
    They neatly rolled out their awards via Twitter on Thursday night. They were able to produce great short videos with team supporters announcing the award winners.
    Captain Chase Wouters was another multiple award winner being named the club’s hardest working player and taking the team’s community minded award.
    Overager Scott Walford was named the Blades best defenceman. Left-winger Colton Dach, who was playing through his 16-year-old season, claimed honours as the Blades rookie of the year.
Captain Chase Wouters won two Blades team awards.
    Overage defenceman Nolan Kneen took home honours as the Blades hardest hitter. Sophomore rearguard Aidan De La Gorgendiere claimed the award as the club’s most improved player.
    Rookie 16-year-old centre Jayden Wiens claimed the Bentley Memorial Academic Award.
    Feisty overage left-winger Riley McKay captured the Fan’s Choice Award as the team’s favourite player for a second straight campaign.
    The Blades fan of the year award was given to Ryan Collinge.
    The Blades had locked up a playoff berth for the second straight season and had a 34-24-2-3 record in the regular season before the CHL cancelled the remainder of the regular season and entire post-season in the 2019-20 campaign due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • The Blades have to love the fact they have Mitch Bach as their new manager of communications. Bach was a skilled broadcast sports journalist, who spent a lengthy stretch at CHAT Television in Medicine Hat, Alta. The tribute videos he created for the Blades digital networks for overage players Kneen and McKay have been outstanding. The video for Walford is slated to run at 11 a.m. on Sunday.
  • While there is great excitement in Regina the historic Pats will get to select Connor Bedard first overall in the WHL Bantam Draft on April 22, Saskatoon got to enjoy watching two highly touted bantam draft prospects play this past season. Forwards Brayden Yager and Riley Heidt had outstanding seasons playing as underage players for the Saskatoon Contacts midget AAA team. Yager had 18 goals and 24 assists appearing in all of the Contacts 44 regular season games. Heidt also played in all of the Contacts 44 regular season games piling up 17 goals and 20 assists. Bedard has exceptional player status to allow him to play full time in the WHL as a 15-year-old. Yager and Heidt were prospects for the exceptional status tag, but there hasn’t been any word if either of them would get that tag. Even if they don’t get that tag, they will be great additions for the WHL teams they join.
  • With most gyms closed across the country and everyone trying to stay home as much as possible due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve seen pictures of a handful of home gyms come across various social media lines. Most have a partial old school feeling to them. Some of the coolest I’ve seen have been courtesy of track and field star Sage Watson, Hamilton Tiger-Cats long snapper Aaron Crawford, Saskatoon Hilltops receiver/kicker and star curler Rylan Kleiter and Hilltops alum and University of Regina Rams defensive lineman Garth Knittng.
  • Big props to the crew I work with at the Gordie Howe Sports Complex for the newsletter that was put out this week. The lead front page column dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and sports was outstanding. Just to note, I did not have a hand in writing it, but it is fantastic. You can check it out by clicking right here.
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Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Touring abandoned downtown Saskatoon in COVID-19 scare

Downtown Saskatoon was looking pretty empty on Sunday.
    I didn’t realize how unnerved I would feel to see downtown Saskatoon empty.
    As the governments at all levels of Canada continue to shut society down and promote social distancing to halt the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, I decided on Sunday to take a tour of downtown Saskatoon.
    The idea popped in my head one day earlier, when I drove through that area on a supply run with my mom. We were shocked to see how empty the streets were.
    When I went on Sunday, I was planning to drive around and take photos from my car.
The look of 2nd Avenue in downtown Saskatoon on Sunday.
    When I got to downtown Saskatoon and realized that seemly no one was there, I elected to park my car on 2nd Avenue across the street from the Bank of Montreal and go for a tour on foot.
    I suspected it wouldn’t be hard to observe social distancing on this walk.
    Typically on a normal Sunday, downtown Saskatoon is vibrant and full of activity. During the summer months, you might encounter an event happening in the streets.
    On my Sunday trek, it was an odd different to see close to no one walking around, only the odd car on the streets unless I walked down Idylwyld Drive and almost all the parking spots sitting empty.
A look at City Hall in downtown Saskatoon on Sunday.
    An exception to the parked cars observation was by the old Hudson’s Bay building, which houses loft style apartments.
    Even Idylwyld wasn’t as busy as it normally is.
    For most of my tour, I felt like I was living a scene straight out of the 1971 movie The Andromeda Strain. Specifically, I thought of the scene where two scientists were walking through Piedmont, New Mexico, where most of the town’s people were killed by a deadly alien organism that was on a crashed satellite from outer space.
A look at the Delta Hotels Bessborough in downtown Saskatoon on Sunday.
    (*Side note – The Andromeda Strain is a good movie to watch, but it wouldn’t be good for viewing if you are really anxious about the current COVID-19 scare.*)
    The one big difference from The Andromeda Strain movie was I wasn’t walking around seeing the bodies of the deceased lying around.
    The one similarity was I saw a collection of buildings and streets sitting empty waiting to be used.
Most of downtown Saskatoon looked like everyone just dropped what they were doing and left. Most of the flags that were flown from various buildings were still flapping in the wind.
Signs still hung advertising the Juno Awards in downtown Saskatoon.
    Signs were still up in various places advertising The Juno Awards, which were set for March 15 in Saskatoon but were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Glam medal 1980s era style music still blared from Smoke’s Poutinerie. It caught me off guard to hear that music blaring into an empty street.
    Looking through the restaurant window, you couldn’t see a single person. If a kitchen staffer was on duty, that person was likely in a concealed away area.
    As I walked through downtown, I found the doors of some businesses were padlocked shut. A handful of businesses had signs flashing they were open, but I didn’t have the urge to go inside.
Music blared from Smoke’s Poutinerie.
    It was different to walk up to Hudsons Pub and see it sitting perfectly quiet. The only activity came from a staffer that stopped in to apparently check on the place.
    The Delta Hotels Bessborough sat there without anyone walking in or out of it, when I traveled past.
    I finally continued the loop making my way down 20th Street towards Midtown Plaza. I came across the billboard sign from the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades asking the city to “stay strong.”
    Even if you somehow were able to avoid the news of the current day, you should be able to come to the conclusion that something terrible was going on.
    I proceeded to walk up Idylwyld and came across the Cactus Club Cafe. The blinds were pulled down over all the windows and the parking lot was empty around the establishment outside of about two or three cars likely belonging to staff that were working to the kitchen for takeout orders.
    Patrons usually have their photos taken at the outside entrance in front of the Cactus Club Cafe sign. I had never done during normal times, but I elected to take a selfie on Sunday.
Businesses in downtown Saskatoon were locked up.
    Going down 22nd Street to get back to my parked car on 2nd Avenue, I walked by TCU Place, The Bay on the north side of Midtown Plaza and Affinity Credit Union. All had an abandoned feel to them.
    TCU Place is usually jumping on a Sunday, and to see it not busy on a Sunday was odd.
During my tour, I believe I only encountered about three other people who happened to be walking around.
    While seeing downtown empty felt hollow, I felt safe in a strange way, because there was no one around.
An upbeat downtown Saskatoon billboard from the Saskatoon Blades.
    Before I got back to my car, I found a “stay healthy” billboard that promoted actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
    After arriving back at my car, I proceeded to drive home, which meant driving past the bus mall. I drove past a lady standing in the bus mall wearing a First World War style looking gas mask.
    It was the last reminder I needed to reinforce the current world was a changed alternate universe one. I still desperately hope the world can get back to normal sooner than later.

CHL cancels playoffs, off-season activities start

The SaskTel Centre and all rinks won’t host any CHL playoff games in 2020
    With all the cancellations and postponements that have been going on in the sports and entertainment worlds due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it seemed it would be more and more difficult for the three major junior hockey Leagues under the Canadian Hockey League umbrella to host a post-season.
    On Monday, the CHL officially canceled all post-season activities for the WHL, OHL and QMJHL and the Memorial Cup tournament. The Memorial Cup was first awarded in 1919, and this will mark the first year since that time it won’t be handed out.
    Due to the uncertainty created by COVID-19, it was hard to come up with a scenario to allow major junior hockey playoffs to proceed.
    The current times even saw the upcoming Summer Olympic Games that were set to start on July 24 get postponed to next year. That announcement was made on Tuesday.
    In Canada, the seasons for all levels of amateur hockey came to a premature end due to COVID-19.
    In Saskatoon, the last meaningful competitive hockey game was held on March 12 at Merlis Belsher Place, when the visiting Moose Jaw Warriors downed the Saskatoon Contacts 5-3 in Game 3 of a best-of-five Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League semifinal series. The Warriors swept the series 3-0.
    On top of the public health factor, I believe the logistics were making it too hard for the CHL to comeback and complete the 2019-20 campaign.
    There is optimistic hope the COVID-19 scare will go away in two months. Still, it is impossible to make that determination for sure, and even if you do, it is unclear what would still be present for government restrictions.
    Besides trying to navigate travel restrictions to get players back, teams also have to deal with finding availabilities with their facilities. Even during spring and summer months, arenas will be booked for concerts and conventions well in advance.
Zack Hayes’s major junior career has come to an end with the Raiders.
    On top of all of that, there is the expense of keep artificial ice in a facility, when it is not being used.
    While everyone seemed destined to miss out on something special due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is sad the respective overagers on each club didn’t get one last farewell salute.
    The Prince Albert Raiders topped the WHL’s East Division for a second straight year with a 36-18-6-4 record. The cancellation of the rest of the season brings an end to the major junior careers of captain Zack Hayes, defenceman Jeremy Masella and left-winger Brayden Watts.
    The Saskatoon Blades qualified for the WHL post-season with a 34-24-2-3 record. The cancellation of the rest of the campaign ends the major junior careers of left-winger Riley McKay and defencemen Nolan Kneen and Scott Walford.
    The WHL cancelled its league awards function and Bantam Draft that were slated for May 6 and 7 respectively in Red Deer, Alta.
    The WHL Bantam Draft will be conducted online on April 22. Further information on the Bantam Draft and how the league awards will be presented will be given out at a later date.
    The WHL went about some off-season business on Wednesday. The league held its lottery for the first round of the WHL Bantam Draft, and the Regina Pats won the right to make the first overall selection.
    The Pats ended up with that selection after acquiring the Swift Current Broncos first round pick via the trade route through the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
    On Tuesday, highly touted bantam prospect Connor Bedard became the first player to be granted exceptional player status for the WHL, which means he could play full-time on the circuit in his 15-year-old campaign.
    Pats general manager John Paddock told Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post on Wednesday the Pats will select Bedard with first overall selection.
    On Wednesday, the WHL held its first ever U.S. prospects draft. The Red Deer Rebels selected forward Gracyn Sawchyn from Minneapolis, Minn., with the first overall selection. Sawchyn, who stands 5-foot-8 and weighs 130 pounds, piled up 32 goals and 51 assists in 54 games for the Shattuck-St. Mary’s Sabres under-14 team.
    The Raiders took forward Jamison Sluys from Point Roberts, Wash., with the fifth overall pick in the first round. Sluys, who stands 5-foot-7 and weighs 145 pounds, had seven goals and 26 assists in 27 games with the Delta Hockey Academy Bantam Prep Green in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League.
    The Raiders proceeded to select forward Declan Stewart from Hawthorne, Calif., in the second round and 40th overall. Stewart, who stands 5-foot-10 and weighs 133 pounds, played for the Los Angeles under-14 junior Kings last season posting seven goals and 13 assists in 55 games.
Riley McKay’s major junior career has come to an end with the Blades.
    The Blades took defenceman Ze’ev Buium from Laguna Niguel, Calif., with the 22nd pick in the first round. Buium, who stands 5-foot-5 and weighs 125 pounds, recorded two goals and 14 assists in 56 games with the Shattuck-St. Mary’s Sabres.
    The Blades proceeded to take forward Brenden Fields from Ladera Ranch, Calif., in the second round and 23rd overall. Fields, who stands 5-foot-6 and weighs 124 pounds, posted 28 goals and 29 assists in 54 games with the Los Angeles under-14 junior Kings.
    All the players selected in the U.S. Prospects Draft are born in 2005, which means they won’t be eligible to play full time in the league until the 2021-22 campaign.

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Saturday, 21 March 2020

Cononavirus scare results in weird and eerie week

At work in the home office on Saturday night.
    If I need a quick reminder of how the world has changed, all I have to do is turn on my mobile phone.
    The first thing that comes up is an emergency services warning stating that due to the COVID-19 pandemic anyone who has returned to Saskatchewan from outside the country must mandatorily self-isolate for 14 days and failure to do so will result in a $2,000 fine.
    A short time ago back on Friday, March 6, I was covering a WHL regular season game that saw the host Saskatoon Blades down the Regina Pats 2-1 in overtime at the SaskTel Centre. Sophomore left-winger Kyle Crnkovic scored the winner 74 seconds into the extra session to allow the Blades to lock up a berth in the WHL playoffs.
    At that time, life was proceeding as normal.
    Tuesday, March 10 seemed like the last normal day. From that day until now, you will likely be able to find a number of posts on social media lines that didn’t age well due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
    Because of the scare it has created, most people in Saskatoon are virtually living in lockdown and self-isolating at the time I am making this post go live.
The Huskies sign autographs for little fan on March 11.
    Looking back at March 10, I suspect I’m not the only one who has made social posts that said things that didn’t age well. I stumbled on a CBC timeline story about COVID-19, and it showed a Saskatchewan provincial government press conference from Wednesday, March 11.
    During that press conference, it was said the party was on for the Juno Awards, which are Canada’s national music awards, slated for this past Sunday in Saskatoon. Words of reassurance were offered noting there was low risk in Saskatchewan with regards to COVID-19.
    The conference occurred before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization and the NBA suspended play that same day.
    The Junos were cancelled the next day as cancellations and postponements poured in across the sports world.
    On March 11, there were a total of 110 COVID-19 cases in Canada and one death. At the time of making this post go live, there were 1,328 COVID-19 cases in Canada and 19 deaths.
    On March 12, the Saskatchewan government confirmed its first presumptive case of COVID-19. As of today, Saskatchewan has 25 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 19 presumptive cases.
    The Saskatchewan government declared a state of emergency this past Wednesday. Since that time, more and more measures have been taken to shut down society in the province, which has been mirrored in the rest of the country.
The Huskies pose for a picture at the March 11 rally.
    Over the past 10 days, it is safe to presume most in Canada have seen video of what has taken place in Italy, where that country of just over 60-million people has seen its health care system overrun by the COVID-19 pandemic.
    At the time this post went live, Italy leads the world in COVID-19 deaths at 4,825. In a 24-hour period on Saturday, Italy had 793 deaths due to COVID-19.
    The drastic measures in Canada and Saskatchewan have been taken to try and prevent the health system from being overrun like Italy’s has.
    In my view, we are faced with the options of bad and less bad. The decision makers in Canada have decided to go the less bad route and try and not let COVID-19 run wild through the country.
    When this scare does ultimately pass, it will likely leave behind a devastating economic toll. At the moment, we are all in this together, so we will all face that reality when it comes.
    Knowing how it seems a lot of people have short memories, I can already see people being upset when we are in economic shambles when the COVID-19 pandemic passes. The fact death was escaped all of sudden gets forgotten.
    If you search hard enough, you will likely find a person or two that prefers to die now than face life after the COVID-19 pandemic.
    The reality is the world will be a much different place after the COVID-19 pandemic passes. Still, it is unhealthy to dwell on what the future can be even a month or two down the road.
I made Thursday a hockey jersey day.
    As for me, I have really only started to full out process what has gone on since March 11 starting on Friday. I had to get caught up on work related projects that were started before all the craziness began to occur.
    Strange as it sounds, this past Monday and Tuesday were basically normal work days for me. I had been tracking the developments of closures and cancellations and new restrictions brought in by governments during those normal work days too.
    As of Thursday night after I was all caught up, I began to wonder what Friday would be like, when I had more time to think about what all has happened.
    My mind began to worry for old friends I made over my life who have gone into the nursing profession.
    I remembered how fun it was to attend the celebration rally for the U Sports national champion University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s basketball team at the Physical Activity Complex during the lunch hour on March 11. The gold medal winners from the Huskies track and field and wrestling teams were also honoured.
    All that occurred before the NBA suspended play.
    I do wonder what different things I would have done had the COVID-19 pandemic not happened. For a short time when cancellations or postponements happened, there were other things on the go that filled the time that was committed to what I was originally going to go to.
    On Saturday, March 14, I was to have been in Medicine Hat, Alta., to celebrate Bob Ridley calling his 4,000th game as the play-by-play voice of the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers.
    Tonight was to have been a special night in Saskatoon, as the Blades were to honour their long time former head coach and general manager Lorne Molleken, who always treated my family unbelievably well. I had been looking forward to tonight at the SaskTel Centre.
I have been working out in my basement dungeon.
    I don’t think I have totally comprehended how odd and eerie the world is at the present time in the shadow of COVID-19.
    I have spent more down time with my mom. We took a drive to downtown Saskatoon, and it was unsettling to see that part of the city be basically abandoned.
    As downtown Saskatoon neared, there seemed to be less and less life out in the street.
    I’ve had moments where I was thankful I was no longer working in the mainstream media, because I know reporters would be working 18-hour days when something like the COVID-19 pandemic breaks out. The sports staffers all of sudden end up helping the news staffers.
    I’ve had moments where I’ve gone emotionally in the tank. I’ve had other moments where I have felt good thinking about all the special moments I have covered in my career covering sports.
    In a lot of ways, I have had way more good experiences than most will ever have in their lives.
    I am glad there are things that have run their normal course. The NFL has been business as usual with that league’s free agency period underway.
    I will note it feels uncomfortable to hear all-time great quarterback Tom Brady signed a two-year $50-million US guaranteed contact with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at age 42. You could divide that figure and give out $50,000 US to 1,000 persons in these challenging times and it would be more of a benefit to society than giving all that cash to one person to throw a football.
Some of my mementos that have been collected over the years.
    With that noted, the NFL is not immune to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sean Payton, who is the star head coach of the New Orleans Saints, has been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, and he is self-isolating at home.
    At the moment, the only certainty is uncertainty.
    As I said before, all anyone can do is take things one day at a time and remember we are all going through this difficult time right now together.
    Hopefully by following self-isolation and other directions by the governments in Canada, we will get to the other end of this sooner than later.

Watson goes Rocky IV training in self-isolation, other notes

    One of the most inspiring videos I saw this week came from the Instagram account of elite Canadian track and field athlete Sage Watson.
    The 25-year-old, who holds the Canadian record for the women’s 400-metre hurdles, returned home to her family ranch near Seven Persons, which his just southwest of Medicine Hat in Alberta. Watson came back home after training in Arizona and has put herself in self-isolation for 14 days due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
    She competed at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
    Watson is currently training to go to the upcoming Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, which are slated to start on July 24 and run through to August 9.
    At her family ranch, Watson has been running on gravel roads and working out in a gym she created.
    She posted one of her gym workouts, which included doing box jumps on hay bales. That scene was reminiscent of the fictional character in boxer Rocky Balboa training in the snowy countryside of Russia in the movie Rocky IV.
    Watson does a great job of creating a lot of inspiring posts on her Instagram account, and I would encourage you to give her a follow @sagewatson like more than 55,300 others already have.

  • When the SFMAAAHL handed out its league awards on March 13, Regina Rebels forward Neena Brick was named the winner of the league’s Hayley Wickenheiser Most Valuable Player award, the Kelly Bechard Top Scorer award and a first-team all-star. Brick piled up 30 goals and 28 assists for 58 points to help the Rebels top the SFMAAAHL regular season with a 27-2-1 record. The female midget AAA playoffs across Canada were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Saskatoon Stars graduating goaltender Arden Kliewer was named a second team SFMAAAHL all-star. On a young rebuilding Stars team, Kliewer posted a 6-10-1 record, a 2.78 goals against average, a .921 save percentage and one shutout. Over her four seasons with the Stars, Kliewer posted a 44-13-2 record, a 1.91 goals against average, .923 save percentage and 11 shutouts. She sits second in the history of the SFMAAAHL for career regular season wins. Kliewer helped the Stars win the SFMAAAHL title and appear in the Esso Cup national female midget AAA hockey championship tournament in 2018 and 2019. The 18-year-old will join the University of Regina Cougars women’s hockey team next season.
  • With the WHL having cancelled the rest of its regular season game due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 18-year-old Spokane Chiefs left-winger Adam Beckman won the regular season scoring title. The Saskatoon product appeared in 63 games with the Chiefs piling up 48 goals and 59 assists for 107 points. He posted a plus-44 rating in the plus-minus department.
  • The Dog’s Breakfast fundraiser for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies football team originally scheduled for April 30 has been postponed until Thursday, September 3 at Prairieland Park. The Huskies made the postponement announcement on Friday. Jim McMahon, who was the quarterback of the NFL’s famed 1985 Chicago Bears that won the Super Bowl, will be the guest speaker. Glen Suitor, who was a safety with the CFL’s 1989 Grey Cup champion Saskatchewan Roughriders, will be the master of ceremonies. Tickets for the Dog’s Breakfast can be found by clicking right here.
  • Now graduated Saskatoon Hilltops left guard Ryder Klisowsky has elected to continue his post-secondary football career in the U Sports ranks joining the University of Manitba Bisons, Klisowsky, who stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 310 pounds, played with the Hilltops for the past five seasons helping the storied club win the CJFL national title in each of those campaigns. The Hilltops have won the last six straight CJFL titles overall.
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Sunday, 15 March 2020

Feeling an awful squeeze due to COVID-19 scare

One of the final recreation hockey games at Merlis Belsher Place.
    It feels like society is coming apart over the conoravirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
    Any time there is a new cancellation, postponement or measure enacted to try to curve the potential spread of COVID-19, it seems to trigger another round of panic.
    I myself feel like I am getting more and more unnerved.
    Of course, my life revolves around the sports world, especially the local sports world. I cover it on my blog and for various media outlets on a freelance basis.
    Since the start of January, I have served as the communications coordinator for the Gordie Howe Sports Complex.
    At the moment, the sports world is basically shut down. Even checking on Instagram today to find out Merlis Belsher Place would be closing on Monday almost created a panic attack.
    Just back on February 29, I covered the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men's hockey team winning a Canada West Conference title in that building.
    Another scare came from hearing Canadian Hockey League teams are sending their players home before travel bans become more even more of a worry. The WHL’s Saskatoon Blades and Prince Albert Raiders both announced on Sunday they were sending their players home.
Most sports venues in Saskatoon sit empty.
    I am in my comfortable spot when I am interacting with the sports world or I am at a facility be it an arena, football field or court. At the moment, all of that has been taken away, and it makes me sad.
    I almost feel like I have to put in work to avoid depression.
    I have had many moments where I have fought off the feeling of being flat out scared.
    Early last week, I personally thought all the reaction to the coronavirus scare was overreaction. I believe it is something that needs to be taken seriously.
    I still think an overreaction has occurred, but that thought doesn’t amount to anything.
    When the NBA suspended play on Wednesday, that seemed to be the moment when the dominoes really start to tumble to bring the sports world to a halt.
    The powers that control the rest of the world are bringing in clamp down after clamp down. Basically, the horse has left the barn on that front, and all anyone can do is try to take a deep breath and react to the next seemly inevitable change that is about to come.
    Introverts might be good with the concept of social distancing.
    My gut feeling is this will be a struggle for most people. For myself, the idea of not having face to face social encounters is terrifying.
The players of the Raiders and Blades have been sent home.
    I still find in person encounters are the best way to establish connection and community, where messages passed in electronic form can be twisted in interpretation.
    I almost don’t want to check social media. I find there are extremes where some people think COVID-19 shouldn’t be a worry to others who believe the world is going to end tomorrow or a significant portion of the population is going to die.
    It feels like society is being squeezed. I believe I am not the only one that feels this way.
    On Saturday night, I went out to Outlaws, which a Saskatoon nightclub hotspot, and I encounter a tonne of people who felt squeezed too. Everybody who was out that night treated each other super well.
    It felt good just to go out and have a party and feel a release. It seemed everyone that was there was happy to just be having a good time.
    For at least a few hours, the worries of what was happening in the world were in the background of the mind.
I rarely take pictures at Outlaws it was great to see everyone have fun.
    Even when I work up this morning, it was great to see a number of social media posts from the fun skate the Prince Albert Northern Bears female midget AAA hockey team had in “Hockey Town North” on Saturday night.
    It is comforting to know you can still find upbeat social media posts that are a pick me up. It feels like it takes extra work to find them.
    I wonder when the world will get back to being normal. I can’t wait to get back to a sports venue to cover an event again.
    I know things are on hold to allow the medical experts to get a handle on COVID-19.
    I know it has been speculated that issues relating to liability and insurance have played a part in why the shutdowns have occurred in every walk of life. I believe those speculations have merit too.
    Organizations like Hockey Canada put sizable resources into risk assessment, and the experts working in that area in Hockey Canada do great work. I feel you have to lean to accepting their recommendations are right.
    Still, I am struggling with how the world has been since the start of Wednesday. I also have long stretches where I will be doing great.
The Huskies winning the Canada West title on Feb. 29 seems long ago.
    I had been thinking about typing this post for a couple of days just to put out how I am feeling. I think it helps me, and maybe it will help others.
    I figured this post would be a rambling one too.
    Even before writing it, I had to gather myself. I decided to work at the Starbucks just north of the University of Saskatchewan.
    I stepped into the store and was shocked to see all the tables and chairs pushed off to one side. I was told starting on Monday customers would only be able to go in for their orders, but wouldn’t be able to lounge inside the outlet.
    After a chat with the staff, I was able to calm down and get to work.
    I desperately want the freedom to see my friends and not to feel like I am being locked down.
    The only approach I can take is the approach I have been taking with life the last number of years. I just take things one day at a time.
    I try not to worry about tomorrow until the challenges of the current day are met.
I can’t wait to see everyone when the world is in a better state.
    I look forward to the COVID-19 scare coming to an end and being able to have the freedom to see you all again in a more joyful set of circumstances.

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