On Saturday, Manitoba’s provincial boys AAA league announced in a statement that it will no longer be pursuing a conclusion to the 2020-21 regular season and playoffs.
After its impassioned plea to Manitoba’s Premier Brian Pallister and Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin back on January 21, 2021 fell on deaf ears, the league was given no choice but to call off the remainder of its 2020-21 season.
The Manitoba AAA U-18 Hockey League is the provincial AAA league for high school-aged players, with 13 teams situated from Norman to Kenora to Brandon. The league’s Board of Directors had previously created a task force to ensure all safety measures and protocol were put in place and followed to see a successful 2020-21 through.
The league created a modified 36-game regular season schedule, which began on October 16. Teams participated in league play until their respective health regions shut down play. The league was also divided into three divisions, to help limit the spread and contain the virus should it occur.
With the season now officially complete, Brandon’s Deniz Ntelioglou led the league with nine goals and 16 points in eight games, narrowly edging out Southwest’s Hunter Wallace, who accrued 11 goals and 15 points in eight games, while leading the league in goals scored. The Wheat Kings’ netminder Tyson Gregory led the league with six wins, while Parkland Rangers’ backstop Keaton Ziprick posted the best goals against average (1.61) and save percentage (.944) on the year.
Parkland (6-1-0) and Brandon (6-2-0) finished atop the standings, with the Rangers owning a league-best .857 win percentage through the team’s seven games played. Kenora was unable to participate in even one game through October and November. The league saw 33 total games played from start to its eventual pause-turned-finish.
On Friday, Hockey Manitoba announced its Return to Play Version VI for teams wanting to get in some additional practice time prior to rinks shutting down for the summer. Following direction from the province, this includes all participants wearing a helmet, facial shield, mask and mouthguard at all times. The full structure is listed here.
The following is the letter posted to the U-18 AAA website Saturday afternoon by league commissioner Levi Taylor:
The Manitoba U-18 AAA Hockey League has made the difficult decision to suspend league play for the remainder of the 2020-2021 season.
While no league championship will be awarded, teams are permitted to pursue activity, including practices, team events, and exhibition games, as Public health restrictions may permit.
Our decision reflects the uncertain timeline and lack of direction from Public Health with respect to game play.
Thank you to our players, coaches, managers, and volunteers for continued dedication to this program. We share in your frustration. We will continue to engage with the provicnial government, Public Health, and local facilities to ensure a safe and responsible return to play for the 2021-2022 season.
Manitoba U-18 AAA Hockey League
Levi A. Taylor. Commissioner