Nipissing First Nation is 0-2 against COVID-19 when it comes to playing host to the prestigious Little NHL hockey tournament that attracts more than 200 teams from across Ontario.
Concerns about safety, logistics, and fundraising led to the cancellation of the annual March Break event for the second time, a media release stated Tuesday.
Nipissing, whose Warrior teams are often medal-winners, was supposed to host the 49th annual tournament this past spring but the first wave of COVID-19 canceled that possibility.
“The decision to cancel this event for the second year in a row is regrettable, but unavoidable in light of the serious health risks associated with COVID-19 and its rapid spread in urban centres,” said Nipissing Chief Scott McLeod. “Our team worked so hard to host what would have been an incredible tournament.”
Council will need to discuss the possibility of Nipissing hosting LNHL 2022 at a later date, he said.
Members of the local committee and LNHL executive met last Thursday via conference call to discuss how they could possibly bring 3,000 or more people together for a week in these times.
The group discussed the possibility of postponing the tournament until later in the year and the feasibility of hosting a regional format but decided neither scenario was feasible.
Normally challenging issues amplified by pandemic realities, they said, include: management of logistics and hockey operations, team and player registration, volunteer coordination, facility management and accommodations, special events, as well as soliciting sponsorship revenues to offset the various costs.
In addition, they said, many children are not playing hockey this year or playing a modified format and fundraising efforts within First Nation communities to attend the event have been impacted by the pandemic.
The media release also stated that priorities within Indigenous communities have understandably shifted significantly in the past eight months.
“Our number one priority is the health and safety of community members including the youth, players, coaches, and elders,” said Marian Jacko, LNHL president.
“While we are very saddened to have to make this decision, we know it is critical in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 to First Nation communities. With all things considered, it is simply too risky to proceed at this time.”
Dave Dale is a Local Journalism Reporter with BayToday.ca. LJI is funded by the government of Canada.