The Victoria Royals are among the Western Hockey League teams, who over the weekend, sent their players back to their families and hometowns amidst the league shutdown due to COVID-19.
“Our players have left and are in their home communities,” said Royals GM Cameron Hope.
That doesn’t sound encouraging for a restart of the season. That is especially so in light of the minor-pro ECHL and Canadian Junior A leagues, including the B.C. Hockey League, officially cancelling the rest of their seasons.
“We told our players to stay ready and treat it as a hiatus until we hear differently,” said Hope.
Hope said his only note of optimism derives from how quickly this situation has transpired.
“It was only last Wednesday night that we were playing the Rockets in a near-full arena in Kelowna,” he said.
Nobody could have anticipated the suddenness of what happened next.
“If things can change so rapidly in one direction, perhaps they can change just as rapidly in the other,” added Hope.
But Hope realizes he may be hoping against hope.
Consider the plight of the WHL imports, many of whom have returned to Europe. That includes the two Royals imports — captain Phillip Schultz and rookie Keanu Derungs — who are back in Denmark and Switzerland, respectively.
It would not be as simple for them returning to Victoria to resume play as it would be for players returning from Surrey or Saskatchewan. WHL imports, as of the announced travel ban beginning this week of non-American foreign nationals entering Canada, would need to have that sanction lifted before they could return and then face two weeks of self-isolation if they did return.
The Royals had clinched a playoff berth and had four games remaining the regular season when play was halted Thursday.
The WHL has so far labelled the suspension of the season as a “pause.” WHL commissioner Ron Robison, in his statement announcing it last week, said the league is monitoring the situation and that “our goal is to return to play when it is safe and reasonable to do so.”