Canada West cutting games because of pandemic

UNB Reds' Christopher Clapperton gets stopped by University of Alberta Golden Bears goaltender Zach Sawchenko during the U Sports Men's Hockey final, in Lethbridge, Alta., Sunday, March 17, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Olson

Canada West is cutting the number of games in all sports for the 2020-21 season.

The new formats will also involve less travel. It’s in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In men’s and women’s hockey, teams will play 20 regular season games, down from 28.

“I think it’ll work out well,” said University of Alberta Golden Bears hockey coach Ian Herbers. “We always seem to start at the end of August. Now we get to start beginning of September. Hopefully, guys can work a little bit more in the summertime.

“We’ll get in a couple of more exhibition games.”

The Bears and Pandas will play two games against each of the other eight Canada West hockey teams. They’ll play two additional games against MacEwan University and one more each versus the University of Calgary and Mount Royal University.

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The football season will be reduced from eight games to five.

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In basketball and volleyball, the U of A will play only against other teams in the province.

“We’ll eliminate flights from the Canada West basketball season,” said Pandas hoops coach Scott Edwards, whose team will play 16 games.

The U of A is getting hit financially from two sides. The pandemic will cost athletics gate revenue and sponsorship dollars. Plus, teams will likely have to adjust their operations because of cuts to provincial funding.

“They’re immense, to be blunt,” Edwards said of the financial challenges. “Every funding opportunity we have outside of donations to the program are essentially eliminated.

“We have a reduction in camps and other fundraisers we would have had. Until the fall, our ability to raise funds is pretty decimated.”

“The provincial cuts don’t help. Perfect storm happened here this spring. A big part of our funding comes from external sources, like sponsorship and alumni,” explained Herbers, who said their annual alumni golf tournament is off the schedule.

Canada West will announce schedules and playoff formats at a later date.

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University of Alberta athletics facing financial shortfall

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