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2020 Memorial Cup, CHL playoffs cancelled due to coronavirus pandemic

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For the first time in 102 years, there will not be a showdown to determine Canada’s major junior hockey champion.

The 2020 Memorial Cup has been added to the list of cancelled sporting events in Canada due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Canadian Hockey League calling off the tournament and league playoffs on Monday.

The 102nd edition of the event was scheduled to run May 22-31 in Kelowna, B.C., to decide a CHL champion.

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“From our perspective, it’s very disheartening,” Kelowna Rockets president/general manager Bruce Hamilton said.

The CHL said in a statement it simply had no way to move forward.

“We have continued to monitor the latest updates and advice from all public health agencies and medical experts, and worked tirelessly to determine a scenario by which the balance of our season could be played,” the statement said.

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“Unfortunately, given the troubling state of our global climate and public welfare, there is still too much risk and uncertainty to move forward in good conscience.”

Albertan hockey siblings adapt to life without the sport
Albertan hockey siblings adapt to life without the sport

The four-team event was to be hosted by the Western Hockey League’s Rockets alongside the WHL champion, Ontario Hockey League champion and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champion. The three leagues feature a combined 60 teams across Canada and the U.S.

The format of the tournament has changed many times since the trophy was first awarded to the Canadian junior champions in 1919, with the modern four-team format — three league champs and a host city — introduced in 1983.

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The QMJHL champion Rouyn-Noranda Huskies won the Memorial Cup in 2019.

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Kelowna was awarded the tournament in the fall of 2018, and was optimistic about the impact a 10-day event would have on the city.

Beyond junior hockey games, numerous fan events were planned and country music star Brett Kissel was to headline a concert on the tournament’s final weekend.

The CHL originally suspended play on March 12 amid the coronavirus outbreak, and followed up by cancelling the remainder of the regular season last Wednesday. At the time the league said in a statement it was its “hope that the event will continue as scheduled.”

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Preparing for the possible cancellation of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics
Preparing for the possible cancellation of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

A 2021 host city has yet to be determined. Oshawa and Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., were given the green light to advance in the bid process earlier this year by the OHL, which will host the event.

“We’ll get it again, I’m hopeful and confident,” Hamilton said. “But that’s a bridge we’ll cross on another day.”

It marks the second major sports event Kelowna has lost because of COVID-19. Earlier this month, officials cancelled the world mixed doubles and senior curling championships, scheduled for April.