Kamloops sports fans thirsty for something to cheer about are not going to like news published on Wednesday in West Coast League and Kamloops NorthPaws’ press releases.
The league’s five Canadian teams have withdrawn from the 2021 campaign amid the pandemic, with limitations on gathering sizes and border crossings too much to overcome.
“We’re definitely disappointed to not begin play in 2021, but we’re still ecstatic about bringing the NorthPaws and the West Coast League to Kamloops,” NorthPaws’ part-owner Jon Pankuch said in the WCL release. “The pandemic has stalled us from starting, but it hasn’t deterred us.”
All five teams are expected to play in 2022, including the expansion NorthPaws, Edmonton Riverhawks and Nanaimo NightOwls. The Victoria HarbourCats and Kelowna Falcons round out the Canadian contingent.
Earlier this spring, the league issued a revised schedule that eliminated all cross-border travel. The league’s 10 U.S.-based teams continue to prepare for the 2021 championship schedule, which begins on June 4 and includes 48 games for each team.
The league is working through revised divisional alignments and post-season formats, which will be announced later this spring.
“Obviously, the league won’t feel complete without our Canadian members,” WCL Commissioner Rob Neyer said in the WCL press release. “But those five teams will remain foremost in our thoughts this season. We’ll be honouring them in various ways throughout the summer and we look forward to their returns to the field at full strength in 2022.”
NorthPaws’ fans who purchased tickets for games in 2021 will be contacted by the team and offered refunds or a rollover to the 2022 campaign.