All posts by Sean Bray

No Glengarry Hockey School this year due to COVID-19

The Alexandria-based Glengarry Hockey School has enjoyed a long tradition of providing children with skills development at the start of each season. However, for 2020, there will be no hockey school taking place at the Glengarry Sports Palace due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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In a social media post, Luc Duval, whose family operates the school, stated, “The Glengarry Hockey School strongly believes that keeping our players, volunteers, and families safe is paramount, especially during these uncertain times with COVID-19. With this in mind and the current information we have about COVID-19, we have decided to cancel this year’s program.”

The post goes on to note that the 2021 edition is scheduled to begin on August 22.

The Glengarry Hockey School began in 1980 under the direction of Glengarry Sports Hall of Famer (2001) Gilles Joanette, with assistance from sons Yves and Pascal, as well as Brian MacDonald and Gaetan Giroux. Operation of the school was transferred from the Joanette family to Luc Duval a few years ago.

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OFSAA showcases high school athletes continuing to train in challenging times

The province’s high school sports governing body, OFSAA, recently released a video showcasing athletes and how they have continued to train during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Schools (and school sports) have been shuttered since mid-March, with a glimmer of hope for resumption of some sort this fall, according to the Ford government’s plan to reopen schools in September.

Here’s the OFSAA video…

For its part, OFSAA has also formed a Return To Sport Committee.

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Lancaster Curling Club invites members to submit feedback on potential return to curling; EOHU releases guidelines for sports & rec

Will you feel comfortable participating in curling this season? That is part of what executive members of the Lancaster and District Curling Club are trying to learn from the general membership, as planning continues towards potential re-opening this fall.

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Last season came to a crashing halt in mid-May, when health authorities issued directives to help control the COVID-19 pandemic.

Not much has changed in terms of risk since then, but the provincial government and local health authorities have gradually reduced restrictions, allowing sports and recreation groups to begin preparing for a return to play.

The Lancaster and District Curling Club conducted its 2020 annual general meeting remotely this year, in June, at which the new slate of executive directors was confirmed.

As part of the group’s work, plans are being explored for the 2020-21 season, including a survey of members.

Among the questions asked, the board wants to know, “If authorities allow sports to reopen in the fall, do you plan on curling with us this year?”

Should the club re-open for play, a number of health-related changes are being considered:

  • In an effort to spread out games, the club is looking at having league games extend through the weekend.
  • Members are also being asked, “Do you think it is reasonable to ask curlers to help wipe down the rocks, brooms, and door handles before each game?”

For individuals uncomfortable curling this year, the Lancaster executive asks if they will return once there “is a vaccine / effective treatment.”

EOHU publishes guidelines

To assist sports and recreation organizers, coaches, etc., the Eastern Ontario Health Unit has published a set of guidelines.

Amongst the recommendations…

  • Wherever possible, activities should be re-located to outdoor settings.
  • Indoor facility ventilation systems should be both operational and appropriate for the activities practiced within.
  • Designate a responsible person to oversee activities to ensure public health guidelines are followed.
  • Consideration should be given on how to appropriately include or accommodate vulnerable persons such as seniors, those with disabilities and persons with compromised immune systems.
  • Remove unnecessary communal items such as candy, magazines, and complimentary phone chargers. Where disposable water cups are provided, place a garbage receptacle close by for any used cups.
  • Communicate to all participants (coaches/staff, instructors, officials, participants, and their guardians, volunteers) about the risk of COVID-19 and practices that should be undertaken to mitigate risk.

The guidelines go further, specifically detailing rules for screening, prevention, and outbreak management; mandatory mask use indoors; entrance signage; capacity and scheduling requirements to maintain physically distancing; cleaning and disinfection; locker rooms; participants and spectators; equipment; and food and drink.

The EOHU document states, “Amateur and recreational sports leagues may resume so long as they do not allow prolonged or deliberate physical contact between players, or if they have modifications to avoid physical contact between players.” It also suggests, “participants should be encouraged to bring their own equipment.” Any shared equipment must be “cleaned and sanitized between users.” The EOHU also recommends that organizations develop a publicly-available written plan.

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Could 2020 be the year without football?

Life in 2020 is decidedly different than anyone could have imagined, as the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted all facets, including the sports world. One sport in particular – football – is starting to look like it might not be played at all this year.

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Football poll on Twitter (screen capture)

Though a small sample size, voters in my online poll were decisive in predicting that there would be no football in Canada this year.

One-by-one, football leagues have been cancelling their respective seasons. Locally, it began with the shuttering of the youth recreational league in Alexandria and Cornwall, which usually sees spring games featuring Wildcats and Gaels teams for children ages 7 through 15.

Overlapping that, the Cornwall Wildcats Football Club also fields a varsity squad (ages 16-19). This group competes in the Ontario-wide OFC. Its season was initially delayed and then cancelled earlier this summer.

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The Wildcats also put together competitive youth teams that traditionally compete each summer/fall in the Ottawa-based NCAFA league. There was some optimism that play would happen in the fall, with some sort of modified schedule or tournament action, but that was nixed last week, when word came down that the 2020 season was officially cancelled.

University football across the country has also been cancelled for this fall in three of four leagues (Ontario, Canada West, and Atlantic). To date, only Quebec schools are currently scheduled to play (or try to). Teams in that province recently had athletes return to campuses for training through August. There will be no national championship Vanier Cup this year, regardless of what Quebec does.

The prospect of high school football this fall sits somewhere between slim and none. Based on the Ford government plan for re-opening schools, sports will be limited in scope, restricted to being within each school, with strict physical distancing requirements. Further, field trips are prohibited (so presumably that would mean no busing for inter-school sports as well). Subject to a sudden improvement in the COVID-19 situation and a further loosening of health regulations, there will be no high school football, at least in Ontario.

Even from an entertainment perspective, we may not get to see the gridiron game. The Canadian Football League has announced that if it plays at all, all games will take place in Winnipeg, though the chances of action happening aren’t great, as the league appears to be mired in financial difficulties.

Meanwhile, in the USA, the National Football League continues to experience positive COVID-19 tests from players in training camps. Their plan is to begin play in September, with teams in their regular stadiums, but without spectators.

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Glengarry Highland Games holds virtual Kilt Run

In a normal year, one of the events on day two of the Glengarry Highland Games in Maxville is the Kilt Run, which is capped off by runners finishing their route on the track in front of thousands of spectators. Of course, as we all know, 2020 is no normal year.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s edition of the Games was cancelled, replaced by a virtual edition.

The Kilt Run, too, was made virtual, with individuals invited to get into the Glengarry Highland Games spirit by completing a run in their own environs.

Participants were asked to run their own course on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, and then send photos/videos into the Games committee.

“Put your kilt and/or your GHG t-shirt and show your Glengarry spirit wherever you may be!”

Promotion for Kilt Run 2020 virtual edition

The Games next year are scheduled for July 30-31, hopefully in-person, in Maxville.

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Char-Lan Rebels highlight memorable 1988-89 squad

The 1988-89 edition of the Char-Lan Rebels was a stellar group, highlighted by Kevin Poapst, who led in scoring for a third straight year, with 65 goals and 39 assists.

Competing in the then Eastern Ontario Junior ‘B’ Hockey League, the Rebels were in their heyday, having won their first (and only) league championship banner to cap off the 1985-86 season.

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The Char-Lan Rebels junior ‘B’ hockey team from the 1988-89 season. (submitted photo)

The current club recently shared this photo on social media, as hockey returned to Canada in the form of the restart of the NHL season, with the 2020 playoffs underway in Toronto and Edmonton.

The Rebs, and the rest of the teams in the EOJHL (formerly the CCHL2) are hopeful they will have a season this fall, pending the further loosening of provincial health restrictions.

In case you missed it, Char-Lan’s junior ‘B’ hockey team ended the 2019-20 season by naming its season award winners virtually, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s the story posted at the time.

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Vrbetic shares his off-season goaltender training

Dunvegan’s Joe Vrbetic carried the load between the pipes last season for the OHL’s North Bay Battalion.

Recently, he shared his off-season workout regime, which his team posted online.

The 17-year-old saw action in 42 regular-season games last season, posting a 4.23 goals-against average and a 0.881 save percentage on a Battalion team that ended the 2019-20 campaign in last place of the Eastern Conference (17-41-4-0).

Check out these previous stories about Vrbetic published on this website:

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ERSL officially cancels 2020 youth soccer competitive season

Despite the recent loosening of restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a return to training for some clubs, the East Region Soccer League, Eastern Ontario’s competitive youth association, has announced there will be no 2020 outdoor season.

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The official announcement came down today, July 31, but the writing was probably on the wall for a while, as numerous youth leagues across the province have been forced to cancel play this year.

The Glengarry Soccer League, which fields Glengarry Hearts teams in the ERSL, previously pulled the plug on soccer in the county and the participation of the Hearts in any potential ERSL play this summer.

In the ERSL announcement, league general manager Shannon Holder stated, “Since March we have worked on various models and contingency plans in anticipation of a return to play. We have looked to the health officials, the government and our governing bodies for direction, as well as our members, to lead our planning efforts to meet their needs. Unfortunately, we are not in Phase 3 of Ontario Soccer’s Return to Play (RTP) Guidelines and therefore we are still not permitted to operate league games.”

Ontario Soccer’s return to play protocol and stages are different from the “stages” announced by the provincial government. The province’s oversight body for the beautiful game allowed, from July 16, leagues within a number of health unit territories (including Ottawa and the Eastern Ontario Health Unit), to move to phase 2 of return to play, meaning that clubs could engage in “enhanced training and modified games” as well as inter-squad modified competition, but online within the club.

As such, league play remained prohibited.

From the ERSL announcement, “Once approval from Ontario Soccer has been received to return to organized games [phase 3 of RTP], the league will return to planning for our next season. We hope to see everyone back on the pitch to test your skills in league play soon.”

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Parsons finally gets to visit his OHL draft club in Kitchener

With the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, some aspects of hockey life have gone on, while others have stopped or been changed. For a young goaltender from Embrun, the situation over the past few months delayed his visit to his OHL draft club until this week.

The 15-year-old Jackson Parsons, who was picked in the 2020 OHL draft in the third round, 53rd overall, by the Kitchener Rangers. The top junior league in the province held its draft virtually this year, so this recent visit to the team’s home was Parsons’ first opportunity to see their facilities and meet in-person with staff.

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Goaltender Jackson Parsons visited the Kitchener Rangers OHL hockey club in person for the first time recently. (Rangers OHL photo)

Since being drafted, he’s connected remotely with coaches. He’s also participated in Hockey Canada sessions online.

The teen backstop spent the 2019-20 season with the U18 Cornwall Colts and the CCHL2 Char-Lan Rebels. For background, see this previously posted story about Parsons.

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Glengarry Highland Games encourages you to celebrate virtually

This last week of August would normally be a hectic one in the small hamlet of Maxville, with bagpipes, campers, and thousands of visitors descending on the community for the Glengarry Highland Games.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers of the Games were forced to cancel the 2020 edition, scheduled for July 31 and August 1. This would have been the 73rd edition of the Glengarry Highland Games, which were first held in 1948.

However, as the saying goes… the show must go on. In this case, it goes on virtually.

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Heavyweights got some work in recently on the fairgrounds in Maxville, as the Glengarry Highland Games committee recorded the action as part of an upcoming promotional video. (submitted photo)

In a media release from Dona Cruickshank, the Games’ director of advertising and a past president, it is noted, “In its 73-year history, a Glengarry Highland Games has never been cancelled until this year. It seems strange not to be preparing for the Games, not only for the Games directors, but for everyone in Glengarry who counts on the Games to be the gathering spot of the summer for family and friends near and far.”

“This week, things are a lot quieter in the Counties and certainly Maxville won’t be receiving the thousands of visitors who start arriving Wednesday and fill the streets and fairgrounds for the days of the Games.

There is a big void for everyone with what to do this weekend that can match the excitement and camaraderie of the Games. At the Games, we have come up with a few novel ways to keep the Games alive by using our social media to post virtual Games happenings.

Nothing can replace the real thing, but we hope everyone will gather in COVID-19 safe groups and carry on with Games festivities using some of the neat stuff found on our website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube sites.”

Glengarry Highland Games committee media release

If you are looking for Games merchandise, such as a T-shirt to don so you can get into the spirit, items are on sale, until Wednesday evening, at the administration building. Amongst the products available is a special 2020 shirt. Sales take place from 6 to 9 p.m., and visitors are reminded to wear a mask. Debit or credit purchases only.

On the Games Facebook page this week, you can participate in trivia and bingo challenges. Word has it that there will also be photos posted from past Games golf tournaments which “have raised funds for many local organizations over the years. What can be more fun that wearing a kilt that swirls as you whack the mighty white ball!”

Something to look forward to on Thursday, with a 6 p.m. scheduled release on Facebook, is “a very entertaining video with many of our Games directors tossing the token. You’ll see a lot of familiar faces and great attempts to look like pros as they toss one of the Games famous beer tokens. No tokens or directors were harmed in this video.”

Also set for Thursday is the posting of nostalgic photos from past Tartan Balls. “For this kick-off to Games weekend attendees gather in their finest Scottish attire for an evening of dinner and dance and, of course, the haggis.”

On Friday, at 4 p.m., the Virtual Edition of the Glengarry Highland Games, a 90-minute show, will be made available to the public. “Many of our Games heavyweights, Highland dancers, fiddlers, and Celtic bands have joined together giving their time and talent to create a mini-Games for your entertainment. Taped live over the past weekend, this collection of Glengarry talent will bring back the many special sights and sounds that make up every Games. It is our hope that you will find a moment in the video that brings the Games to life for you.”

Planned for release on Saturday are several short videos highlighting Games favourite moments from recent years.

Looking to experience the sounds of the Glengarry Highland Games? The organizing committee is releasing playlists to Spotify and Apple Music. You will be able to choose either “the playlist with rousing party songs or the one with traditional Celtic tunes.”

Virtual Massed Highland Fling

Last Sunday, some 230 (and counting) Highland dancers joined together via an online conferencing platform for a Massed Highland Fling. Dancers from countries including Australia, Switzerland, Ireland, Scotland, the USA, and Canada danced for 84 seconds to the piping of Glen Sinclair. According to the Games announcement, “The World Adult Champion, Marielle Lesperance, from PEI, joined the dance, [along with] three generations of dancers from Maxville, [and] past Games director Lois McLeod, her daughter Heather and granddaughter Layla.”

This performance will be posted publicly on Friday, July 31.

“We can’t bring you the real thing, but we hope you will enjoy revisiting past Games and viewing a few special events to fill the hours of Games weekend.”

Glengarry Highland Games committee media release

10 Ways to Celebrate the Games

The Glengarry Highland Games has also published a 10-step guide to enjoying the festivities this year, virtually. You can view/download/print the document here (updated).

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