The U SPORTS national championships for hockey and volleyball were cancelled for the 2019–2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the first time that the David Johnson University Cup, awarded to the national champion of university men’s hockey, or the Golden Path trophy, awarded to the university women’s hockey national champion, will not be awarded in their respective 58-year and 22-year histories.
The Varsity Blues women’s volleyball team, men’s volleyball team, and women’s hockey teams had qualified for the U SPORTS championship games after the women’s hockey and volleyball teams won the Ontario University Athletics championships, and the volleyball men’s team finished second. However, the women’s hockey team had already been eliminated by Mount Royal University.
The women’s volleyball championship was set to be played in Calgary, and the men’s was set to be played in Winnipeg. As of March 15, there were 39 cases of COVID-19 in Alberta and four in Manitoba.
“Over the past 24 hours, many things have changed in sport across Canada and it’s a really difficult position to be in as these types of important decisions impact so many people,” U SPORTS Chief Sport Officer Lisette Johnson-Stapley wrote in a statement. “Our host committees have worked tirelessly for two years on these events and we thank them for their support and the great experience they wanted to provide for the student-athletes, coaches and officials as well as family, friends and fans.”
The men’s and women’s hockey championships were cancelled after Hockey Canada called off all sanctioned activities due to the pandemic. The women’s tournament was being held on Prince Edward Island, where there is currently one case of COVID-19. “As [a] proud partner of Hockey Canada, we understand how difficult a decision this was to make,” Johnson-Stapley stated, regarding the hockey championships. “We understand the disappointment felt by our student-athletes, coaches, officials and wonderful hosts however the decision was made with the best interest of all participants in mind.”
U SPORTS has also stated that it will refund any tickets that people had bought in advance.
Several other professional and collegiate leagues and tournaments have been either suspended or outright cancelled. The NBA, NHL, Major League Soccer, and several European soccer leagues, including the Premier League, have suspended their seasons, with little clarity on future steps. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in the United States has cancelled all winter and spring championships, including March Madness — their profitable men’s volleyball tournament.
The NCAA will, however, grant another year of eligibility to athletes who compete in spring. There is little indication on how these leagues and tournaments will continue if the status of the pandemic changes, or if any changes to eligibility will be made for U SPORTS athletes who have been affected.
The Varsity has reached out to the Varsity Blues for comment.