Mary Brown’s Centre would have been filled with cheering fans Saturday and Sunday, but a COVID-related snafu south of the border, the bleachers remained empty all weekend, even before the introduction of new restrictions on Sunday.
The San Francisco City Cats were due to face off against the Newfoundland Rogues in St. John’s on Saturday and Sunday. But after arriving at the airport Friday morning, the team was turned away because their PCR test results hadn’t returned.
Mike Steadman, owner of the San Francisco City Cats, said the disappointment was something he hadn’t seen in a long time.
“We were at the airport, all checked in, bags on the conveyor belt and everything,” he said. “And then this happens.”
Steadman said the team took their PCR tests on Wednesday — two days prior to take off. Steadman said his team met all vaccine and testing requirements, and were told they’d have the results prior to leaving.
“We were at the airport at 4 a.m., our flight left at 7 a.m., we were supposed to have the results by 5 a.m., and they did not come in,” he said.
Steadman was told the team’s results were delayed because labs were overloaded with COVID-19 tests.
The arrival of the Omicron variant in Canada caused a surge in cases this week, with the country averaging more than 5,500 positive cases per day.
The numbers forced the country to enforce stricter travel restrictions, including requirements that all Canadians submit to a PCR test after returning from abroad.
Not being allowed to board the flight in San Francisco was “devastating,” Steadman said, “because we put in so much work to put this thing together.”
The team requires a roster of about 20-25 players for international games, Steadman said.
After a number of players had to drop out for COVID-related reasons, finding fully-vaccinated replacements, who had updated passports—and were available to travel that weekend—took time.
“So it was pretty devastating not only for us,” he said, “but I’m sure for Tony [Kenny] up there in Canada because of the expense involved in the cancellation.”
Stacy Leawood, assistant coach for the Newfoundland Rogues, said there was plenty of disappointment north of the border as well.
“Obviously, this weekend was only going to be our second weekend where we had a Saturday night game. So those games are games that fans typically look forward to,” she said. “I know we had a whole lot of kids that we’re really looking forward to coming, but obviously don’t get to come see their favourite athletes now. So there’s definitely a lot of disappointment.”
Leawood said the cancellation was “something that we hoped wouldn’t happen.”
Leawood said, with COVID-19 “wreaking havoc” on the sports world for almost two years now, the organization has learned to control what it can.
“I don’t think anybody was not prepared for this,” she said. “I think everybody kind of expected that at some point in the season, this might happen. So while people are disappointed, I think they’ll still come out once we’re able to play again.”