Brandon Hannibal hoped to stretch his final season with the Oceanside Generals a little longer.
But it ended sooner than expected when the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League on March 9 delivered the bad news that the 2020-21 season is officially over.
Hannibal, one of the Generals toughest blue-liners, found it hard to believe his junior hockey career is done.
“It would have been nice to play for a league championship,” said Hannibal. “We had that chance last season and it was cancelled due to COVID-19. I was hoping it would happen this season. I feel robbed. This is my last year.”
The last league game Hannibal played with the Generals was in November of 2020. All the games were halted after that due to the spike in COVID-19 cases.
League president Simon Morgan said based on a review of the recent the provincial health orders, the board unanimously decided to bring the season to a conclusion
“The current public health authority discussions show it is unlikely there will be any changes in their current direction from where we are today,” Simon Morgan stated in his post to the league website.
“And with the added pressures from facilities comparing the teams’ need for ice usage against the need for the removal of the ice for other sport- or health-related events, it seemed that this is the time to make this decision. Each team will determine their specific end date for their practice times with their players.”
Hannibal said the cancellation of the season has left a void that he now must fill.
“I looking at some hockey prospects but for now I will be focusing more on work and preparing to go to school,” said Hannibal. “I hope to play more golf as well.”
The other graduating Generals this year include forwards Dawson Heathcote, Aidan Sutherland, Garett Gilbertson, Jacob Thomas and defenceman Aleko Karamanis.
The VIJHL played games in October and November, each team getting between 11 and 13 contests before the season went on hold on Nov. 21. The pause on league play was extended again in December, January and February, and BC Hockey announced the cancellation of the 2021 Cyclone Taylor Cup — the Junior B provincial championship — in early January.
B.C.’s other Junior B leagues have also called it quits on 2020-21. The Pacific Junior Hockey League, which operates on the Lower Mainland, cancelled the rest of its season last Tuesday and the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League did so in early February.
Morgan expressed his thanks to coaches, players, volunteers and team executives for their support and use of safe practice during games and practices, to fans for their patience, and to BC Hockey for its support in navigating temporary changes to rules and regulations.
The focus will now turn toward the 2021-22 season.
“We look forward to playing games again in the future and it is starting to look very positive that this will occur in late summer in time for this upcoming season,” Morgan wrote. “The VIJHL board of governors is already starting to work on the seeds of next season.”
— with files from Black Press