It's not a complete surprise that curling and other sports have been cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that doesn't make it any easier on teams that had their hopes of representing Northern Ontario at a national curling level dashed.
The Northern Ontario Curling Association cancelled the 2022 Northern Ontario playdowns, which were slated to be held this week in Kenora. The event was cancelled last week.
The event has both men's and women's curling teams from across the region compete to determine who represents the area at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts and Tim Horton's Brier. The Scotties are slated to be held in Thunder Bay, beginning later this month, with the Brier set for Lethbridge, Alta., in March.
"I totally empathize with them, I think they're right that it does suck, that it isn't fair that they don't get the chance to play," said NOCA executive director Bobby Ray.
"But at the same time, I think we're facing a health situation that's a little bit out of our hands. It's absolutely not the decision that anybody wanted to make, but it's the one we're the most comfortable with."
Ray said the concern was if one or two teams contracted COVID-19 while at the event it would also result in an unfair competition, as those teams would be unable to complete their games.
The decision, he said, was about safety, even though he understands players are frustrated.
Even though the playdowns were cancelled in late December, the event would not be allowed to proceed based on current provincial regulations.
Dylan Johnson, who was entered to skip a team based out of the Fort Frances Curling Club, said while not playing is frustrating, he's also out of pocket major expenses.
He said the teams had to agree to bubble-type rules before the event would begin, which would mean essentially staying in hotel rooms, only ordering take-out, avoiding public spaces, and going immediately to and from the arena for games.
Most teams agreed to the rules, he said, but even with that, the event was still cancelled.
"We put in practice time, we did some tournaments, as much as we could due to the COVID circumstances, we put a lot of money into it," Johnson said, noting the team is still trying to get a refund for its accommodations.
"We all booked time off work, I'm sure we can go back to work this week, but some people can't."
A decision still has yet to be made by NOCA on how to select a team to represent the region at the Scotties in three weeks.
Ray said one potential option is to use a point-ranking system, which would have the Krista McCarville-led team from Thunder Bay represent the region at the Scotties, and the Jacobs team from Sault Ste. Marie compete at the Brier.