New gathering restrictions due to the surge of COVID-19 Omicron variant cases include cancellation of all sports tournaments until at least Jan. 31.
That means the annual Kamloops International Bantam Hockey Tournament will not take place for the second consecutive year, having been cancelled last year due to the pandemic. It was scheduled to run from Dec. 29 to Jan. 2.
Also cancelled for the second straight year are the provincial men’s and women’s curling championships, which were scheduled to take place on McArthur Island and at the Kamloops Curling Club from Jan. 4 to Jan. 9. The championships were set to be played in Kamloops in January of 2021, but were also axed then due to the pandemic.
Further impacting the situation is the fact the national men’s and women’s curling championships, to which the provincial winners advance, are taking place soon. In fact, the Scotties national women’s tourney is set to take place from Jan. 28 to Feb. 6 in Thunder Bay. The B.C. ban on all sports tourneys runs to at least Jan. 31. The national men’s curling championship is set for Lethbridge from March 4 to March 13.
Curl BC Scott Braley told KTW the provincial organization and members of the Kamloops tourney committee are meeting on Friday afternoon (Dec. 17) to discuss options, if there are any. He said he was not made aware of the restrictions until just before they were announced by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry at 1 p.m.
The timing of the Scotties and the duration of the ban means a women’s championship tourney cannot be held. Last year, after the event was cancelled, Curl BC decided to send the defending 2020 champion — the Corryn Brown rink of Kamloops and the Steve Laycock squad from the Okanagan — to the Scotties. And it remains unlikely that a men's tournament can be held in time as a representative needs to be announced three weeks before the Brier begins on March 4
Braley said it remains to be seen how a B.C. representative will be chosen to play at the Scotties and Brier tournaments. Whether one-on-one games can be held instead of the championship tourneys remains to be seen.
“I just feel bad about it for the whole Kamloops committee,” Braley said. “They’ve gone through this twice now and and just do a fantastic job and so we will be meeting with them later this afternoon, as well. But ,hopefully, we can be able to leverage some of their great work a little bit later after this is is over.”
Braley said there is no contingency plan, due to the razor-tight schedules of provincial and national championships.
“It just didn't even occur to us that we'd have to go through this again until Omicron came up — and then it started,” he said,
Braley also cited the mid-November rainstorms that destroyed highways, leading to cancellation of regional qualifying tournaments for the provincial championships.
“So the earthquake this morning just seemed like, you know, crowning touch,” Braley said with a sigh, referencing a quake felt by many on Friday off the coast of B.C.