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Grizzlies return from COVID protocols; Clippers, Royals remain out

Victoria Grizzlies return to practice, indefinite suspension continues for Victoria Royals
The Victoria Grizzlies logo. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

From being put on ice for five days to being back on the ice, Andrew Amousse was just happy to see his Victoria Grizzlies teammates again offline and in person in practice.

“I’ve been sitting in my room so I can’t wait to get to see everybody’s faces again,” said the assistant captain, before the Grizzlies’ session Monday at The Q Centre.

The Grizzlies returned to practice following a suspension of all hockey-related activities for five days as Island junior teams continue dealing with the game of COVID Protocol Whack-a-Mole.

The Cowichan Valley Capitals, also of the B.C. Hockey League, resumed activities Sunday following their five-day protocol lay-off. The Nanaimo Clippers of the BCHL are suspended from hockey-related activities until Thursday, which has forced the postponement of Wednesday’s game against Victoria. The Grizzlies had three previous games postponed due to its hiatus. The players know it’s a sign of the times, and two years into the pandemic, know how to take these setbacks in stride.

“The players and coaches kept in touch online and we were given workout routines and I did weights in my room,” said Amousse, headed next season to play Div. 1 at American International College, which last season won its conference to make the NCAA tournament.

The Grizzlies (14-14) are scheduled to play the Kings (10-15-2) in Powell River on Friday night. The Grizzlies are considered to have a potent roster, which makes their .500 record less than what was ­perhaps expected. It’s up to the ­leadership group of captain Ellis Rickwood and assistant ­captains Amousse, Isack Bandu and Michael Hoekstra to rally the club down the home stretch.

“That’s the reason we have the letters on our jerseys,” said Amousse. “It’s up to us to be the example and to lead.”

The Victoria Royals of the Western Hockey League, meanwhile, continue with their indefinite suspension of hockey-related matters. The Royals have had four consecutive games postponed due to the halt — two that were scheduled over the weekend against the ­Cougars in Prince George and two against the Spokane Chiefs that were set for tonight and Wednesday at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.

One of the Royals-Cougars games has been rescheduled for Jan. 19 in Prince George. The other postponed Royals games have yet to be re-allotted on the calendar.

“The biggest thing has been the mental grind,” said Royals GM and head coach Dan Price, about the suspension of hockey activities.

“Everyone is aware that there are bigger problems in the world right now than ours in hockey. That said, everyone is looking ahead to when we can get back to practising and playing.”

There were seven Royals players listed under COVID protocols. Royals players and staff were being tested again Monday.

“Our return date will be based on the testing,” said Price.

The WHL announced that the Edmonton Oil Kings, Everett Silvertips, Medicine Hat Tigers, Prince Albert Raiders, Red Deer Rebels, Saskatoon Blades, Spokane Chiefs and Winnipeg Ice were all cleared to resume team activities. They join the Lethbridge Hurricanes, Moose Jaw Warriors, Portland Winterhawks, Regina Pats, Swift Current Broncos, and Tri-City Americans, who previously returned to team activities. That means 14 of the 15 WHL clubs that were under COVID protocol suspensions have returned to regular hockey activities with the Royals the only team remaining to do so.

Victoria, which has fashioned a remarkable rally and sits in a playoff position at 12-14-4 after a 1-11-2 start, is currently scheduled to play the Rockets in Kelowna on Friday night.