The Atlantic Athletic Collegiate Association announced university sports would once again be cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns on Dec. 2, 2020. The ACAA announced last summer there would be no fall semester sports but left hope in student-athletes that competition would make a comeback in the winter.
Men’s fourth-year basketball player Ian Watters said the news is disappointing but he wasn’t surprised after New Brunswick went back to the orange phase as part of its COVID-19 recovery plan.
“I was looking forward to the season after coming off of last year but at the same time, I understand,” Watters said. “The situation did get worse in New Brunswick and obviously it’s not worth compromising that in order to play basketball.”
Watters’ Tommies were a win away from reaching the ACAA finals in 2020 and would’ve had nearly every player coming back for the 2020-21 season. He said this years’ team had the potential to compete with the league’s top teams, such as last season’s champion, Mount Allison University.
“We were getting older and had a lot of leaders … you put a lot of work into this and to not be able to play your final year, it sucks,” he said.
The ACAA will allow teams to compete with one another during practice, depending on government health protocols. Watters had spent this school year in his hometown, Miramichi, where he hasn’t been practicing with his team but other teams have been.
Though Watters is in his fourth year, he will not lose a year of eligibility and will have a chance to come back to play ACAA basketball if he chooses to. Players are eligible for five seasons, giving fifth-year players a chance to come back. For Watters, the choice has yet to be made. But women’s hockey player Kaylee Vader knows her time as a Tommie has concluded.
Vader, from Alberta, said the plan has always been to get her degree and get back home. Hockey has taken a toll on her body, she said, having missed some time last season due to a concussion. But it didn’t make her decision any easier.
“I reached that point where I’m ready to hang up the skates,” Vader said.
Vader has been practicing with the women’s hockey team all year but she said it’s been hard to find motivation, where she didn’t know if she’d be able to play again. But her coaching staff was able to lift up the team by adding mini competitions and allowing the team to play music during practice every Thursday.
But Vader’s biggest motivation is knowing her teammates will play after this year.
“If I’m on the ice with girls that are coming back next year, I’m just trying to help them get better,” she said. “It’s the team mentality … even though I may not be coming back, those other girls are.”
Vader said she feels other graduating students feel the same as her and Watters when it comes to not getting one last shot at bringing a banner back to St. Thomas University. She was surprised, yet not shocked, and disappointed but understood. Players won’t get a chance to play in their “grad game,” which is their last home game of the season where graduating players are rewarded with a ceremony before or after the game.
Vader wasn’t able to play in her team’s final game last season, an elimination game against the University of New Brunswick, because she was concussed. She said if she could go back to let herself know it would be the last time she would look down and see the Tommies’ “T” on her chest, she would.
“I’ve spent the last four years trying to represent the “T” on the front. So it would have been one of those moments.”