TORONTO — Hockey Canada announced Thursday it was cancelling all its sanctioned activities, including national championships, until further notice because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Hockey Canada CEO Tom Renney and president and COO Scott Smith said in a statement the decision was made "after much consultation with the Hockey Canada membership, our chief medical officer and public health officials."
The cancellations will go into effect as of Friday.
"Without question, this is an unprecedented period of difficulty for the sports world," Renney and Smith said in a joint statement. "The health and safety of all participants in sport, including players, coaches, staff, officials, fans, family, volunteers and the general public, is of the utmost importance to Hockey Canada.
"We recognize the tremendous effort that has been put forth all year by individuals across the country as they participate in Canada's game," the organization said. "Although it is difficult to process the hockey season ending abruptly, we feel this is the best course of action in order to do our part in keeping our country safe."
All three major junior hockey leagues in Canada and the American Hockey League also announced suspended play Thursday following the NHL’s decision to put its schedule on hiatus.
The Canadian Hockey League said play has been halted in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the Ontario Hockey League and the Western Hockey League.
The 31-team AHL, the top minor league for the NHL, also has suspended play. The league includes four Canadian teams — the Toronto Marlies, the Manitoba Moose, the Laval Rocket and the Belleville Senators.
The CHL, the umbrella organization for the regional leagues, followed many pro leagues in suspending operations. The NBA, NHL, Major League Soccer and Major League Baseball announced schedule suspensions earlier Thursday.
OHL Commissioner David Branch said in a statement Thursday that suspending play was "in the best interest of the health of our players, member team staff, billets, on and off-ice officials, our great fans as well as the general public."
"We deemed this to be the best course of action, effective immediately," Branch added.
"We will continue to monitor ongoing public health developments regarding COVID-19 in the hope of continuing play at a point when it is safe to do so."
The Memorial Cup, the national championship tournament for the CHL, is scheduled for May 22-31 in Kelowna, B.C.
The CHL features 60 combined teams in Canada and the U.S.
The men's and women's Canadian university hockey championships were also cancelled Thursday night.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 12, 2020.
The Canadian Press