Hockey Canada announces cancellation of 2021 Esso Cup

Prince Albert committee hopes to host event in 2022

For the second straight season, the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented the Prince Albert Northern Bears from hosting the Esso Cup.

Hockey Canada announced on Friday afternoon that they had cancelled all of their national championships set for this spring, including the national Under-18 female tournament that was to be held at the Art Hauser Centre.

“Despite a strong desire to work with four great communities to host the top players at various levels across the country this season, the health and safety of all participants and the communities at large continues to be of the utmost importance to Hockey Canada,” chief executive officer Tom Renney and president/chief operation officer Scott Smith said in a prepared statement.

“The ongoing pandemic, coupled with the fact that many regions in the country are not currently playing organized hockey, left us with no other option. We believe the decision to cancel our spring 2021 national championships is the safest decision given the ongoing uncertainty of the pandemic at a local level, as well as the uncertainty around each region being able to compete for a national championship.”

While the news of the cancellation was disappointing for everyone involved in the Esso Cup host committee, it was a different feeling than last year when the tournament plans were halted almost a month before its April 19 start date.

“We had about 38 days left to go last March when we found out that the event wasn’t going ahead,” event chair Robin Wildey. “We had a fair amount of warning this time around that things weren’t going to proceed as planned and we stand behind Hockey Canada’s decision.

“With the COVID-19 restrictions that are in place across the country and the fact that only the Maritime teams are currently playing at the Under-18 level, it would have been very tough to put on an effective championship.”

Unlike last year’s Esso Cup, a schedule had yet to be announced for the 2021 event.

“We were hoping for the mid-April date once again, but we had a floating tournament date from April until May, with the worse case scenario being the second week of May,” Wildey said.

“Hockey Canada has done an awesome job of being forthcoming and keeping us informed of what’s going on throughout this entire process. They’ve always been there whenever we’ve had questions and they believe that we can host an amazing championship.”

In addition to the Esso Cup, Hockey Canada also announced that this season’s Telus Cup, Centennial Cup and Allan Cup would not take place.

Of those events, only the Centennial Cup had a confirmed location as the BCHL’s Penticton Vees were set to host the event, though Friday’s statement revealed that Dundas, Ont. and Calgary were to be the host venues for the Allan Cup and Telus Cup respectively.

In their release, Hockey Canada said that will continue to work with event stakeholders to host the spring 2022 national championships and will announce the locations for those tournaments at a future date.

At the moment, the Esso Cup is currently slated to be held in Lloydminster, Alta., who pushed their hosting back a year to allow Prince Albert the chance to host the 2021 tournament.

“We’ve stated our position to Hockey Canada that we’re fully on board to host the event in 2022,” Wildey said. “Everything that we’ve had in place for the last two years is set to go and all of our sponsors are still on board with us.

“Our entire host committee wants to make this event happen and we can’t wait to see and hear everyone’s support in Prince Albert whenever this event gets going.”

As for the other 2022 national championships, Estevan is slated as the Centennial Cup host and the Telus Cup is currently set to be held in Sydney, N.S.

A host site for the Allan Cup has yet to be announced.