Prospera Place goes dark

The ice surface at Prospera Place in Kelowna.

The Memorial Cup survived the First and Second World Wars, but met its match in the novel coronavirus.

On Monday, the Canadian Hockey League announced that it was cancelling post-seasons across the country in hopes of curtailing the spread of COVID-19.

Kelowna was to host this year’s Memorial Cup — championship tournament for the Western, Ontario and Quebec junior hockey leagues — from May 22-31 at Prospera Place.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Kelowna Rockets president Bruce Hamilton said, “because we had so many people who have put so much into this.

“This thing has been competed for for 101 years and never missed a year. This will be the first time in history it hasn’t been competed for.”

To make matters worse, Kelowna won’t get the chance to host again until 2023. The Memorial Cup follows a three-league rotation, and Ontario is to host in 2021 and Quebec in 2022.

Kelowna may not have had the steam to muster a tournament in 2021, Hamilton said. It could tax volunteers, staff, players and sponsors too much.

Hamilton said he’d also been building a team that could compete for a national title this season, and he’s losing too many veterans to be ready for next spring.

“It’d be unfair to our committee in some ways,” Hamilton said. “I really like our team for next year, but we wouldn’t have as many older guys.

“And the OHL is well underway. They’re down to selecting between two cites, I believe, on this. That’s where’s there’s going to be an impact there more than anything.”

Hamilton said 2023 is a possibility from his viewpoint, but he’d only entertain the idea when the time was right.

“I think we’d consider it, but first of all it has got to be offered to us,” he said. “The CHL’s got enough on their plate right now with all that’s going on, and I’m sure in due time that they’ll sit down with us and have a conversation about … they all know our city deserves to have this, and it’s just when the time is right.”

“I think that that’s out in front of us a little ways, still. We’ve got a number of other things to sort out, first.”

Hamilton said he hasn’t spoken to any of the players yet, but the staff and coaches will do that in the coming days. He said veterans such as Matthew Wedman, Kyle Topping and Liam Kindree are likely to feel it the hardest.

“They’re the guys I feel the most sorry for, that they’re not going get a chance to play.”

Western Hockey League commissioner Ron Robison made the announcement Monday.

Following a meeting with the WHL Board of Governors and consultation with medical professionals, it was determined that the best course of action was shut down the remainder of the post-season.

“Nothing is more important to the WHL than the health and safety of our players, officials, staff and fans,” Robison said in a news release.

“Without any ability to predict as to when it will be safe and responsible to return to play, the WHL has made the difficult decision to cancel the WHL playoffs and the balance of the 2019-20 season. All of us at the WHL will continue to do our part in battling this virus so that we may be in a position to enjoy more WHL hockey.”

With the news, Kelowna might not get a chance to host the Memorial Cup again until 2023. Ontario is set to host next year, and the Quebec league would get a chance to host in 2022.

“We are truly devastated to not be bringing this event to Kelowna in May,” Memorial Cup committee chairman Tom Dyas said. “We’ve been working so hard with our local committee, partners, sponsors and volunteers over the last year, and having to cancel this event is something that we never expected. We know that the health and safety of the community needs to come first, so we are supportive of the CHL’s decision to cancel the 2020 Memorial Cup.”