CANMORE – After an alarming outbreak of COVID-19 within the Canmore Eagles organization, members of the local hockey club are recovering from the virus, but things remain uncertain as to if the season will recover from the pandemic's wider ripple effect.
Stuck in limbo because of provincial regulations influencing Alberta Junior A Hockey League's (AJHL) decisions, including pausing league play, Eagles players have left the team temporarily due to binding rules, which have put a kibosh on Junior A hockey practices.
Due to Alberta's three-week restrictions to sports, the AJHL board of governors are meeting Dec. 19, when big decisions on the 2020-21 season are expected to be the main points of discussion.
"I think the board of governors will take the information on what the government gives us [on Dec. 18] and make the call on whether we can proceed," said Andrew Milne, Canmore Eagles head coach and general manager.
"For everyone involved, I'd love to see it go, but I think there's a lot of work ahead of us."
In late November, there were 16 reported cases among Eagles players and staff forcing game cancellations and mandatory quarantines.
On Nov. 25, The AJHL paused games for at least three weeks in support of the Alberta government declaring a state of public health emergency with restrictions on social gatherings, business operations, and all levels of sport.
Currently, there are no active cases among Eagles players, who returned to their main residences until further notice.
"Everyone's out of isolation now from the players perspective, so they're feeling good," said Milne. "Once we know more about the board of governors, we'll make a plan from there [about the players returning to Canmore].
"Obviously we know we're not coming back until after Christmas at the earliest, so it gives us some time to start to plan the process and look at what that might look like, but we're inevitably going to be bound by what the restrictions are."
Of the already shortened 32-game AJHL season, the Eagles have played two games, winning both, and so far have had eight games cancelled.
The team's next scheduled game is Jan. 2 against the Okotoks Oilers at the Pason Centennial Arena.
In addition, Canmore has two Western Hockey League (WHL) players signed on loan until Dec. 20: defenceman Alex Cotton and forward Spencer Moe. It's uncertain if they will be returning to the club, as it depends on what decisions the WHL and AJHL will make, and if/what dates the two leagues return to action.
Milne is optimistic the league will be back.
"I think it's a big part of our culture and it's big part of our lives, for everyone involved," said Milne. "Any sense of normalcy I think we'd take."