One of the two members of Team Canada from Nova Scotia is calling the move to cancel the women’s world hockey championships a “spontaneous, fear-based decision” based on the spike in COVID-19 cases happening in other parts of the country.
“The abrupt decision to have the worlds cancelled was a little bit too fast,” Jill Saulnier told Global News in a phone interview Thursday. “I just think there were so many steps that could have been taken to have the other countries here safely.
“This has been something we’ve been looking forward to for over a year now, so to have it cancelled for reasons that I don’t really agree with was pretty tough.”
On Wednesday, the province announced the 2021 IIHF Women’s World Championship would be cancelled because of the evolving situation with COVID-19 and the circulation of variants.
The decision came just a day after Nova Scotia chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang said he was confident about the tournament’s safety protocols.
In response, Saulnier put out a lengthy post on her Instagram page Thursday morning explaining the lengths the team and Hockey Canada has gone to, to ensure all Public Health protocols are being followed.
She ended her post by saying she’s “so disappointed in the decision to rob us of this dream.”
Speaking to Global News, Saulnier said she’s not typically one to vocalize her frustrations over social media, but woke up feeling like she needed to do so.
“I was just really, really sad,” she said. “I grew up playing in the Metro Centre … I grew up and I watched the girls play in 2004 and win a gold medal there. That’s been my dream. The girls, we got the news and everybody was just crying for hours.”
Saulnier stresses that the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and Hockey Canada have gone “above and beyond” to ensure the tournament could happen safely.
“We quarantined before we arrived, when we were in our own provinces, we weren’t on the ice for certain periods of time, we weren’t in the gym, we were tested upon arrival and daily. We truly lived in isolation,” she said.
“We would never, ever have even arrived there if we didn’t think we could pull that off with 100 per cent safety.”
This is the second year in a row that the women’s world championship in Halifax has been cancelled. In a statement, the IIHF and Hockey Canada said they’re aiming to find new dates for the tournament “with the goal to host the event in the summer of 2021.”
But for Saulnier, it feels like things are completely back to square one.
“The tough thing about women’s hockey right now is we have one tournament every year. We train for a whole year, we workout every day and we skate every day, to prepare for an April world championship,” she continued. “We don’t really have something to put our sites forward to, except to be positive and hope we’ll be able to come back on the ice safely.
“At this point in time, we just want to play hockey.”
–With files from Rebecca Lau and Jesse Thomas