Editor’s note: This article has been updated with the most current information from the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
OLDS — The Olds Grizzlys will not be hitting the ice until after Dec. 19 when the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) board of governors reconvenes to determine a timeline for return to play.
“As a result of provincial restrictions enacted on November 24, the AJHL season is on pause until existing limitations are lifted and we are permitted to safely return,” said AJHL Commissioner Ryan Bartoshyk, in a statement issued on the evening of Nov. 25.
New restrictions enacted to help stop the spread of COVID-19 include cessation of all levels of sport – professional, semi-professional, junior, collegiate/university and amateur – in enhanced status regions effective Nov. 27.
The Olds Grizzlys had already been in a holding pattern for the past 11 days or so, ever since a member of the Calgary Canucks tested positive for COVID-19.
As a result, Grizzlys’ games had been cancelled since Nov. 20 through Dec. 5 and everybody’s been tested.
Head coach Scott Atkinson tested negative, so he’s rather relieved. Now he’s just waiting to get the test results for the remainder of his players.
“Right now we have 12 guys’ back – they're all negative,” Atkinson said during an interview on Monday, Nov. 23.
It all happened in a roundabout way.
On Nov. 13, the Calgary Canucks played the Okotoks Oilers. The Oilers played the Grizzlys the next day. Later that week, one of the Canucks tested positive for the virus.
“We got shut down as a result of that, even though to our knowledge, we’ve not been directly exposed. We were sort of indirectly exposed,” Atkinson said.
Without games to play, and while waiting for test results to come back, Atkinson has been trying to figure out where to go from here.
“We're not allowed to train as a group right now," he said."That’s the conservative view of it. So we’ll be distributing development plans or workout plans for the guys, just like they’ve been doing all year.
“We’ve just got to sort of figure things out on the fly and even whether we’re going to send guys home. You know, how long is this shut down going to be?
“If it’s going to be for a while, then obviously you might send guys home. And if it’s not, you might not – just wait ‘till everyone tests negative and then go. It’s like everything else with COVID – it seems you get conflicting information, right? So trying to manage that is probably the most difficult part.”
The team and the Alberta Junior Hockey League have been taking what Atkinson called a “conservative approach”, testing frequently and cancelling games, rather than risking the possibility of more infections.
Meanwhile, the league has been holding meetings at the board and governors’ level to figure out where to go from here.
That being the case, Atkinson said all he and the team can do is try to be as safe as they can and see what the league decides.
“I mean, it’s just fluid, right? You just have to live with it,” he said. “There’s nothing you can do, so you might as well not have a heart attack about it; just kind of roll with the punches.”
Atkinson was asked how the team is handling the situation – whether anybody’s nervous while they await results.
“Well you never know, I mean, guys can get this it seems like anywhere. But we’ve been pretty diligent about sticking with our cohort and testing. We test temperatures every day,” he said.
“So I don’t think anybody’s that nervous because no one’s feeling poorly or having symptoms and their temperature’s well within the normal range every day.
“And Olds is a pretty good area, relative to the rest of the province or this country, right? So I think there’s some fortune in there, right?”