Carleton Ravens players reach for the trophy as they celebrate their win over the Dalhousie Tigers in men's championship final basketball game of the U Sports Final 8 Championships, in Ottawa, on Sunday, March 8, 2020. U Sports has cancelled its 2021 winter national championships due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. (The Canadian Press/Justin Tang)

U Sports cancels winter championships due to pandemic

U Sports, the national brand of university sports in Canada, has cancelled its 2021 winter national championships due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to an announcement from U Sports on Thursday, the women’s and men’s championships in hockey, basketball, swimming, track and field, volleyball and wrestling have all been affected by the cancellation. 

The decision had unanimous support from the U Sports board of directors and the four university sports conferences; Atlantic University Sport (AUS), Ontario University Athletics (OUA), Canada West and the Quebec Students Sports Federation (RSEQ).

“Following consultations with the four conferences, we agreed that student-athlete safety remains our top priority,” Dick White, the U Sports interim chief executive officer, said in a statement on Thursday. “It is not logistically possible for teams to be travelling across the country at this time. Therefore, U Sports is in the unfortunate position where we are unable to offer the 2021 winter championships.”

Earlier this year, U Sports had to cancel six of its fall championships, including the Vanier Cup, which is the Canadian University football championship game, because of the ongoing pandemic. 

U Sports Chief Sport Officer Lisette Johnson-Stapley said that the league is unique in that it offers nine winter championships in nine different parts of the country, 

“Our hosts are facing a variety of challenges due to COVID-19, including travel restrictions and limits on public indoor gatherings that impact event planning,” Johnson Stapely said. “We look forward to providing the hosts of the cancelled 2021 national championships the opportunity to host in future years.”

Conferences respond

Following the announcement from U Sports, the AUS said that they have formed a committee dedicated to exploring possible return-to-play options for the 2020-2021 winter semester. 

“As athletic directors, we are passionate about sport and we believe in its value not only to our student-athletes, but to our campuses and surrounding communities,” said John Richard, the president of AUS and director of athletics for the University of New Brunswick.

“We welcome the opportunity to seek out safe and viable ways to resume competition this season,” Richard added.

Meanwhile, the RSEQ said that all activities are suspended until at least Jan. 15, 2021, and the OUA cancelled all sanctioned sports programming and championships up to March 31, 2021. 

Canada West said that no regular season, playoff, and championship events will happen during the 2020-2021 season for women’s and men’s basketball, volleyball, hockey, and wrestling, as well as women’s rugby 7s.

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