TORONTO, ON – There will not be U SPORTS (OUA) games in Ontario on the first two weekends of January. With the rise of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, the OUA has placed a “pause” on university sport until Jan. 24, 2022.
The OUA schedule, which was set to resume on Jan. 6, 2022, will now be paused until Jan. 24. There is no word on whether games and competitions within that time period will be rescheduled or cancelled.
“This decision and corresponding timeline have been established in an effort to better allow member institutions to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on student-life programming and allow for student-athletes to have sufficient time to properly train and prepare for the winter championship stretch run,” said the OUA in a press release.
“This is brutal. I can’t believe it’s happening again,” an OUA women’s basketball player who has requested anonymity told 49 Sports. “I don’t know if my mental health can take this.”
The pause in Ontario University Athletics also impacts Quebec’s McGill, Concordia and UQTR, whose men’s ice hockey teams compete in the OUA Far East Division alongside Carleton and uOttawa.
The AUS, Canada West and RSEQ have not cancelled, suspended or paused competition yet.
Omicron’s presence in Canadian university sport
The rapid rise of the Omicron variant across Canada has a strong connection to university sport. While not sanctioned by U SPORTS, the Canadian Men’s University Rugby Championship hosted by the Queen’s Gaels began the outbreak.
The Dalhousie Men’s Rugby Club team contracted the virus at the Kingston-hosted event from Nov 24-28 and brought it back to Halifax, where it is likely they spread it to the StFX community. StFX hosted their X-Ring Ceremony on Dec. 3.
Both AUS member schools have now cancelled in-person exams and likely spread the virus to others within their community and their rugby opponents at the national championship.
The outbreak at Queen’s has led to multiple outbreaks within the OUA, not solely Queen’s Athletics, and has also spread the virus to university campuses across Canada.
Notes on COVID-19’s impact since November
- Before the rise of the Omicron variant in Canada, over 100 Canadian university student-athletes had a last-minute change in plans, as the FISU Lucerne 2021 Winter Universiade was cancelled due to Swiss travel restrictions introduced to halt the rise of Omicron. The Games were scheduled from Dec. 11-21 but cancelled on Nov. 28.
- New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have suspended team sports outside the QMJHL and MHL, two junior hockey leagues. Prince Edward Island has also suspended travel in and out of the island for sports games; however, like New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, the QMJHL and MHL are exempt. Although an AUS source tells 49 Sports that this is likely an oversight with no competitive university games scheduled until January, it remains a concern.
- The UNB Reds Men’s Hockey Team hosts the McGill Redbirds on Dec. 30 in Fredericton. However, that would not be permitted under the new New Brunswick gathering restriction. So expect this game to be called off.
- Due to Nova Scotia’s new health restrictions, the Dalhousie Tigers have cancelled the 2021 Rod and Joan Shoveller Memorial Men’s Basketball Tournament. The tournament would have included Cape Breton, Laval, Concordia, Acadia, Saint Mary’s, StFX and Dalhousie.
- StFX Athletics has halted ticket sales on their hockey and basketball games for the new year, with Nova Scotia restrictions not allowing more than 150 people for a gathering.
- Mount Allison University has shuttered athletics and training facilities indefinitely. However, Acadia will allow staff, faculty and student to use their athletics facility.
- There are three exhibition games scheduled for Dec. 29. McGill plans to visit UPEI in men’s hockey, which current restrictions do not permit. Ryerson’s women’s basketball team was also tabbed to visit the Guelph Gryphons.
- Two exhibition games look like they might still happen. Concordia and UQTR visit each other in men’s hockey on Dec. 29/30, and the Province of Quebec has not announced restrictions for sport.