There’s still no firm timetable for when competitive sports might resume in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic but many organizations are busy planning for that eventuality.
The Canada West Conference, which oversees university sports in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C., has released plans for revised formats in all of its sports in the 2020-21 season.
The new formats feature fewer games and less travel in an effort to ease the financial strain many Canada West members are facing as a result of the pandemic.
Football and soccer programs at the University of Saskatchewan and University of Regina will be the first to experience the changes.
The Canada West plan has football teams playing five regular season games instead of the usual eight next season. The conference’s six teams would play one game against each of their five opponents.
Soccer, which features 13 men’s teams and 16 women’s teams, will be split into regional divisions and teams will play all of their games within their respective division.
In men’s play, the existing Prairie and Pacific divisions will remain but with no interdivision games, teams will play a 10-game schedule. The women, meanwhile, will be grouped in three divisions — B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan/Manitoba — and also play 10 regular season games.
Pluto TV: Corus, Paramount launch free streaming service in Canada
Prince William and Kate Middleton booed while attending Boston Celtics game
Basketball (17 men’s and women’s teams) and volleyball (13 men’s and 14 women’s teams) will be divided along similar lines as women’s soccer, with teams playing a 16-game schedule.
As for hockey, which is preparing for the addition of Trinity Western and MacEwan Universities in 2020-21 while seeing the University of Lethbridge cancelling its programs, the schedule will be trimmed to 20 games. Each of the nine teams will face every other team twice and fill their remaining schedule with games against regional opponents.
The revised formats also allow for competition to be condensed should COVID-19 restrictions limit but not outright eliminate the window of time available to complete the season.
Of course, the entire plan remains contingent on sports actually being able to resume safely. But having at least a framework from which to operate is an important first step.
“In the coming days we’ll get more clarity on whether we’ll be able to advance and move (on this plan) so I think it demonstrates the fact that we have our student-athletes’ interest at the forefront of what we’re trying to do,” said Dave Hardy, chief athletics officer with Huskie Athletics at USask.
The Canada West plan also addresses sports like track and field and wrestling, which don’t run on the same types of schedules as team sports. Those ‘championship sports,’ as they are known, will also go ahead in 2020-21.
The final say, however, remains with public health and government officials. The conference notes in a release that none of its members will resume competition until health authorities in all four Western provinces have said it is safe to do so.
Playoff formats and regular season schedules will be released at a future date yet to be determined.
The new formats will be in place for one year and will be revisited prior to the 2021-22 season.