DAN CEARNS, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, for The Standard
SCUGOG: Throughout this COVID-19 pandemic, people have seen changes to the ways they live their lives and the ways they interact with others.
What concerns Port Perry MoJacks goaltender Corey Kuypers is, this pandemic could rob 1999 born players of their last season of Junior C hockey.
Mr. Kuypers recently started an online petition to try to reverse a decision made by Hockey Canada to not allow this group of players to play their overage season.
“As a result of the global pandemic, our last season of junior hockey has been taken away from us. The overage season has been known by many to be the best year of a player’s junior career. With no season being played for the 2020-2021 year, multiple governing bodies had approved [allowing] the overage group of 1999 born players to play in the 2021-2022 season, if it was able to happen, following all [COVID-19] guidelines. Recently, all teams, staff and players have been informed, Hockey Canada has denied the governing bodies requests to allow 1999 born players to play their overage season,” the petition, found online at www.change.org, read.
“This instantly sad-dened many hockey players, as they have had their final year of competitive hockey taken away from them through no fault of their own.”
Mr. Kuypers told The Standard, teams and players were informed of this decision in the first week of March.
“When I first heard the news, it was pretty shocking. I took some time to reflect on last season and my hockey career overall. It took a bit for it to sink in that I played my last game of competitive junior hockey. Once it sunk in fully and I started talking to teammates and other players in the league, it got pretty emotional and has been a really tough past couple of weeks,” he said.
The MoJacks goaltender had been preparing for, what he had hoped would be, a memorable last season of Junior C hockey. “Prior to hearing the news we would not be playing, I [had] been doing as much as I [could] in preparation to get back to a season the best I [could]. I spent the summer skating once or twice a week as soon as the rinks opened back up. Personally, I have been staying away from com-mercial gyms during the pandemic but have been training in my home gym six times a week,” Mr. Kuypers explained.
When he learned of Hockey Canada’s decision, he knew he had to do something. “Honestly, when I first made the petition, I was not sure how much support we would get at all. It was something I felt I had to do, after talking to some guys on my team and other guys in the league. It felt like the right thing to do. I wanted everyone to know how much we want this last year of hockey and a platform for all parents, friends and fans to support us. It was a pretty good feeling when I looked at the petition by the end of the next day and we [had] reached 1000 supporters. That really amazed me, and I couldn’t be more thankful for everyone [who] has supported us along the way.”
In the last few years, Mr. Kuypers has enjoyed being a member of the Port Perry MoJacks.
“It means a lot to me to be a Port Perry Mojack. From day one, coming out of midget hockey, it instantly had a family atmosphere. Coming into the room, all the boys on the team were so good, and we really had a close group my first year and have continued to have good groups. The coaching staff and management have been great here as well, it’s a great organization from top to bottom, and they have been so good to me for the past three years. I would do anything to wear that jersey for one more year and say goodbye to the sport I love.”
However, Hockey Canada is remaining firm in their decision on this topic. “Hockey Canada has empathy for any young person who has been deprived of the opportunity to experience significant events in their lives over the past year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as attending their high school graduation, leaving home for the first time to attend university, or participating in extra-curricular activities, including playing hockey. While the losses suffered by those individuals, to both their physical and mental health, is immeasurable, Hockey Canada does not believe making changes to its age Divisions, to address the needs of one age group, is the right thing to do for its many other younger players, who have been similarly affected over the past eleven months. Accordingly, Hockey Canada does not anticipate changing its age classifications for the 2021-22 season,” read a statement from Hockey Canada.
The petition can be found on www.change.org and is named ‘Help save our final year of Junior Hockey eligibility.’