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Coronavirus: B.C. junior hockey team cancels season following positive tests for COVID-19

The Revelstoke Grizzlies, seen here in action against the Kelowna Chiefs. This week, the Grizzlies said a team member tested positive for COVID-19, with additional team members having since received positive test results. Steve Dunsmoor / Dunsmoor Creative

A junior hockey team in B.C.’s Interior has shut down for the season following positive coronavirus tests.

The Revelstoke Grizzlies of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) said the decision stemmed from a player possibly being exposed to COVID-19 through a place of employment.

The club said it learned of the potential exposure on Jan. 26 and that it quickly enacted mandatory self-isolation for athletes and staff.

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However, the player tested positive for COVID-19 and additional team members have since received positive test results.

The junior B hockey club did not disclose how many team members tested positive.

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“Earlier this week, we elected to temporarily cancel team activities in an effort to keep our billet families, players and greater community safe,” Grizzlies head coach and general manager Ryan Parent said.

“In light of having received multiple positive test results, we have had to make another hard decision. It is with a heavy heart that we have ceased operations for the 2020-21 KIJHL season.”

Like other junior leagues in B.C., the KIJHL season is on pause because of provincial health restrictions that are in place until Feb. 5.

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It’s expected the league will announce its plans for the rest of the season at that time.

“The KIJHL fully supports the Grizzlies’ decision to end their season due to these positive test results,” league commissioner Jeff Dubois said.

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“We applaud the Grizzlies organization for acting in the best interests of the health and safety of their athletes, staff, billets and community, and we wish those who have tested positive for COVID-19 a safe and speedy recovery.”

The Grizzlies are, technically, the defending league champions, and have made back-to-back appearances in the final.

In 2018, Revelstoke fell to the Kimberley Dynamiters 4-2. Last year, they beat Kimberley 4-1 to claim the league title.

The 2020 playoffs were cancelled because of COVID-19. Revelstoke had posted the league’s second-best record with 82 points (39-6-3-0-1), just behind front-running Kimberley at 83 points (40-6-3-0-0).

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“This is a disheartening step to have to take for our athletes, especially after the abrupt ending to last year’s playoffs at the onset of the pandemic,” Parent said.

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“We feel we have done the right thing by our players by allowing them to chase their dreams this season and work to achieve their future goals.”

Parent also thanked Revelstoke and the team’s billet families.

“These have been stressful times but the care they’ve provided these young men is invaluable and it means the world to us. Things will be better for our national sport in the future and you can bet we will be ready.”

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