FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The decision to cancel the remainder of the NWJHL season, although disappointing, did not come as a shock to the Fort St. John Huskies. When the season was put on hold in November, the Huskies had only played two regular-season games.

Leagues met with Hockey Alberta on Monday, which resulted in a vote to end the season. This came after recent COVID-19 updates from the Government of Alberta.

Head coach Todd Alexander says the decision to cancel Alberta minor hockey a week prior gave them a hint that they were next.

“We were always cautiously optimistic about being able to move forward. But no, we are not really surprised at all, especially after they bailed on minor hockey. It was just a matter of time before they bailed on the junior program as well,” says Alexander.

The Huskies have been holding modified team practices all season, in accordance with public health guidelines.

In December, it was ruled that no adults could not participate in hockey programs. Junior hockey teams have players aged 16 to 21, so the restriction banned all players aged 19 or older from skating.

“We’re skating with 11 players in the month of December. It’s just been a strange year, and the boys have been doing pretty well with it, to be honest.”

Coaches wear many hats throughout the course of a season, and Alexander admits he played mental health coach more than hockey coach.

“Right now to be quite honest, it’s more important to play a role in their mental health, not just their hockey skills,” he adds.

The Huskies will continue to practice until March, and Alexander says he’s expecting nearly all of his players to return next season.

“I’ve got three guys ageing out this year, but I would say 80 to 90 per cent of the kids will be back.”

As for a positive spin on the season, Alexander is proud of the continued tradition of graduating players into post-secondary education.

“It’s been pretty consistent the last five years where we’ve been sending anywhere from two to five guys to some kind of schooling, which is really big for Junior B hockey. They usually tell us that once you play Junior B it’s the end of the road. That’s just not our personality around here.”