COCHRANE— Five local hockey stars had their seasons cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cochrane Western Hockey League (WHL) players Tyrel Bauer of the Seattle Thunderbirds and Connor Bouchard of the Tri-City Americans, as well as Caleb Willms and Damon Agyeman of the Medicine Hat Tigers found out March 23 that the remainder of the hockey season and playoffs would be cancelled.
Prior to the cancellation and postponements of events in reaction to COVID-19, Dylan Holloway of Bragg Creek of the University of Wisconsin Badgers lost his final game of the season, falling 2-1 to the Ohio State Buckeyes in the BIG-10 Championship game on March 7.
"It all came so fast," Bauer said. "We went from a regular schedule to being suspended to then cancelled in about a week or so. Obviously, as a hockey player, it's disappointing to have your season cut short for any reason, and we were looking to clinch that last wildcard spot.
"Playoff experience is valuable and the reason why you lace up the skates ... however, we also respect that there is a much bigger problem that deserves proper precautions to help stop it. I hope people understand the severity of the situation. That said, I cannot wait to play again next year."
Bauer said it has not quite set in yet for him that the season is now over without a champion being crowned.
"We had a regular weekend of games ending with a home-and-home with Everett. We were told not to fist-bump fans just as a precaution. From there we had a regular couple of practices, and somewhere along there it was announced we would play with no fans in attendance," Bauer said explaining how quickly things changed over the past couple of weeks.
"On that Thursday (March 19), we were told not to practice and that the league had been paused until further notice. We were quarantined until our departure five or so days later. Then on the 23rd, it was announced the season was officially cancelled. I'm not quite sure it's set in yet, it's all so crazy. Every day that passes I miss it more, and it sets in a little more too."
The pandemic not only effects the remainder of the season but also largely impacts the players who are eligible to get picked in the NHL Draft.
The draft was scheduled to take place June 26 and 27 in Montreal— with the event's cancellation there is now uncertainty around how the players will be picked up by teams.
Holloway was set to be a mid-first round pick while Bauer is listed as a mid-round pick on many mock drafts.
"Right now the draft is suspended until further notice," Bauer said. "Possibly having it online would certainly be different, and maybe disappointing to some. I don't pay attention to mock drafts or anything like that as so much can change or impact the draft and your draft status. It would be an honour just to get selected. My family and I were undecided on attending the event, but it would have been a cool experience."
The NHL Draft combine is another event that is in limbo, which is used to test the players' off-ice fitness and has the potential to boost their standing in the draft stock.
"I'm not sure how that will work going forward," Bauer said. "Right now there isn't even a draft, so I am sure things will start to become more clear as things get back to normal and a date is decided."