‘It’s all out of our control’: Updated health regulations force Tommies to halt

A face mask hangs between two sets of skates in the changing room of the Grant-Harvey Centre in Fredericton, N.B. in this photograph on Jan. 12, 2022. (Aaron Sousa/AQ)

With the recent shift in COVID-19 restrictions, it was announced all Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association (ACAA) and Atlantic University Sport (AUS) sports were unable to continue as scheduled. Originally, the anticipated returning date for athletics was Jan. 19, but with the province entering Level 3 of the COVID-19 winter action plan on Jan. 14, it was pushed ahead. 

The Tommies’ teams part of this ACAA season is the men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball teams, and the AUS is made up of the women’s hockey team and track and field. For athletics, Level 3 means the closure of gyms and the cancellation of games and practices.

“It’s all out of our control,” said Christian Christie, St. Thomas University men’s volleyball team captain.

Christian Christie, pictured here in this submitted game photo, is captain of the St. Thomas University men’s volleyball team. (Submitted: STU Athletics)

Christie, a fifth-year student at STU, said the ACAA has multiple plans of action laid out depending on when New Brunswick comes out of Level 3.

“We just want to get back on the court and play,” he said. “We will take whatever we can get, but we’re all hoping that it’s more games rather than fewer.”

With eight games scheduled for the duration of their season, there is still uncertainty surrounding season games and playoffs. But Christie said getting to play any games is better than none. 

They were able to practice four times during the week before the lockdown was put in place.

“For the next few weeks, we’re all just doing our best to stay active and get at home workouts in where we can, get some fresh air every day and just try to stay ready for when we’re able to start back up,” he said.

Christie said the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) plans to meet in the upcoming days to discuss a plan for nationals.

“It’s one thing to try and finish our conference championship, but it’s another thing to try and find a time across the country where everyone is able to have their season finished up, playoffs, and then get everyone together for nationals,” he said.

“So, fingers crossed that that can still go ahead, but we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Tommies’ women’s hockey captain Alex Woods is pictured here in this game photo at the Grant-Harvey Centre in Fredericton, N.B. on Oct. 29, 2021. (Aaron Sousa/AQ)

In the same boat, the Tommies’ women’s hockey captain, Alex Woods, said their team felt discouraged after the loss of their past season. Woods is in her sixth-year at STU, but fifth year of eligibility to play.

“It was really nice to have a sense of normalcy back [in first semester] after we had last year with nothing, but now, it’s kind of a déjà vu moment to last year,” she said.

The Tommie’s women’s hockey team practiced until Dec. 2, with the anticipated return date of their season being Dec. 31. But, they didn’t begin practicing until the week of Jan. 9, followed by the lockdown.

The updated regulations cause them to miss out on four weeks of play; a mix of exhibition and regular-season games. 

“I’m hoping for a season extension, so we still get to play all of our games.”

Woods said the AUS announced that they’re putting in their best efforts to have AUS sports back and running by February. In the meantime, Woods said the team is trying their best to stay in shape through at-home workouts, walking and running.

With gym closures, she said it’s been challenging for students as a whole, specifically student-athletes.

“We kind of rely on those facilities, like the [J.B.] O’Keefe center or the gym in our change room,” Woods said. “We rely on those facilities to stay in game shape.”

Woods said she misses the game and fan excitement, but even just getting to practice again would mean a lot to herself and the team.

She said the unknown is frustrating, but the team understands the importance of playing games in a safe environment and following protocols.

“We’re just hoping that these two weeks are all that need to be done to kind of get New Brunswick back on track, and then we can hopefully proceed safely playing games in the future.”