NOCA reviewing competitions amidst COVID-19 pandemic
“If we were forced to make a decision today, sadly, all competitions would be cancelled for the season.”
This from Northern Ontario’s Executive Director, Bobby Ray, who has been exploring options to responsibly hold competitions with following the advice of provincial and regional health officials.
Ray says that “the majority of our northern Health Units have recommended that curling be limited to play amongst cohorts or ‘mini-leagues’, and that competitions be suspended at this point in time during the pandemic. Some health units have begun to issue advisories against travel in or out of district following the lead of the province’s Medical Officer of Health who has asked that Ontarians only travel for essential purposes. That paired with the fact that half of our clubs have not yet committed to opening before the new year – or at all, makes it difficult to stage a true territorial championship with representation spanning from the Manitoba border to the Ottawa valley.”
While the fate of Northern Ontario’s playdown season is bleak, the Board of Directors for the association representing forty-one curling clubs believes the decision is worth delaying until at least their next meeting on November 5th.
NOCA President Hayley Smith says “Our people are working hard behind the scenes and are communicating with the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries on a regular basis however, with cases of COVID-19 on the rise, the government is not eager to entertain exemptions to the current emergency orders and have, in fact, paused the receipt of any new proposals until November. Our best chance at hosting competitions is for everyone to follow public health advisories so that restrictions may be loosened before the end of the curling season. In these challenging times the Northern Ontario Curling Association remains committed to providing opportunities for competition wherever possible but must prioritize the health of our athletes, volunteers, officials and staff.”
The Northern Ontario Curling Association has not yet cancelled any 2020-21 calendar events; however, they will not be preceding with their schedule as originally laid out. Dates, locations and formats for all events are back on the table and the only decision that has been made is not to host any competitions before January of 2021.
In considering a bubble-like operation for hosting competitions, NOCA admits that such an option is being explored but will require the approval of several parties. Given that such additional measures may include testing and periods of quarantining; NOCA questions whether enough teams would be willing to comply and is planning to solicit feedback from players as part of this evaluation.
Curing Canada has cancelled national events for U15, U18, U21, Varsity and Wheelchair teams while thus far holding out hope for Mixed Doubles, Women’s (Scotties Tournament of Hearts) and Men’s (Tim Horton’s Brier). Seniors, Masters, Mixed and Club Championship nationals also remain on the schedule for the fall of next curling season.
If, in the end, it remains unsafe to host competitions and NOCA is required to qualify a team to a national championship, it has been decided that the results of the most previously completed competition will be used to determine such representation.