The Yukon First Nations Hockey Association (YFNHA) formally cancelled its 43rd annual Yukon Native Hockey Tournament on March 13 over concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a release made public just after 9 a.m., the organization announced the cancellation stating that after consulting with the Yukon’s deputy chief medical officer of health Dr. Catherine Elliott, the board of directors made the “difficult decision.”
“While this was an incredibly difficult decision for our board to make, we do believe that it was the right thing to do in light of the circumstances and the many unknowns concerning COVID-19,” Michelle Dawson-Beattie, president of the YFNHA, said in the statement. “The possibility of infection of any of our tournament goers and the subsequent threat that would pose to their families and home communities was not a risk our board was willing to take.”
The release said that information about refunding team fees and tournament passes will be released in the upcoming days.
Dawson-Beattie told the News that the cancellation of the Arctic Winter Games led the board to take a second look at the tournament.
“Before that, there was no thought of cancelling,” she said. “Once Arctic Winter Games cancelled, we thought maybe we should have a second look at this.”
While the decision was difficult, Dawson-Beattie stressed the safety aspect was not the difficult part.
“It was difficult in the sense that we know (what) the gathering of the tournament … means to people,” said Dawson-Beattie. “It’s an annual event that everybody looks forward to, so we kind of feel like by cancelling it, we’re letting people down. But the health and safety of our players and our fans is number one, and the health and safety of their home communities when they leave here.”
The tournament is one of the largest annual sporting events held in Whitehorse.
Last year’s tournament included a total of 43 teams in six divisions. Prize money for winning the “A” division last season was $6,000.
This year’s tournament was scheduled to happen March 27 to 29 at both the Tahkini Arena and the Canada Games Centre in Whitehorse and would have included 44 teams. Tournament registration filled up for this year’s event in just one hour.
Rescheduling the tournament wasn’t an option, Dawson-Beattie said, because the ice is typically removed following the tournament and a fall rescheduling would be too difficult to manage with next year’s tournament looming in the spring.
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