It’s something we’d see in a movie. The coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, has sparked a nationwide concern, and one to be taken seriously.
Because of the uncertainty surrounding the virus, sports leagues and events have been suspended or cancelled entirely. Students at schools have been sent home, employees at workplaces have been directed to work remotely or to have time off due to the concern. It remains a fluid situation.
On Thursday, the NHIAA decided to proceed with its winter season postseason tournaments — but it took less than 24 hours for the organizing body to retract that decision. Friday morning, the remaining state tournament games had all been suspended until further notice.
“It’s definitely not the way we potentially wanted our season to come to an end,” Keene boys ice hockey senior captain Ben Brown said. “Everybody is a little down, but we definitely respect the NHIAA’s decision and agree with it. We’d rather be safe than sorry when it comes to things like this. We don’t want to put anybody in danger or risk somebody getting sick by any means.”
This decision impacts three area teams that still had hopes to conquer a state championship: the Keene boys ice hockey team, Keene boys basketball team and the ConVal boys basketball team. For now, those hopes have been put on hold. For the seniors, the potential of the games being cancelled could mean the end to their winter season careers.
“It’s definitely tough, your senior year of high school is not something you really imagine coming to an end in hockey due to a pandemic like this,” Brown said. “It really stinks for a lot of us, especially the guys that will be moving on. But we’d rather be safe than state champions. But if we could be both, that would be awesome.”
The news has been a whirlwind. Just Friday morning the Blackbirds athletic director Michael Atkins was on his way back from Concord with the tickets in hand for the families of the athletes who were planning on attending the tournament games, according to Keene boys ice hockey head coach Chris McIntosh.
For now, there’s still a reason for the area teams to hope, but the likelihood of the tournament games still happening remains up in the air.
“We’re going to take it as is, they haven’t used the word ‘cancel,’ ” McIntosh said. “Unfortunately, the way the events have unfolded it doesn’t leave us feeling like we’re on any sort of solid ground right now. The last 48 hours I think just about every major domino has fallen.”
On Friday, the local teams took time to address the issue in their own ways.
“We had a scheduled practice and I certainly wasn’t going to end with the boys getting an announcement at school saying that the season is over and that’s it,” McIntosh said. “We’re going to come out here today and we’re going to have some fun as a group. These kids are deserving to be together right now. We’re all feeling a little down and, quite honestly, a little depressed with the current state of affairs. But just like we have all season we’re going to get out here on the ice, pick each other up and we’re going to have a good time with it.”
“We got together after school and sat down for about an hour and 20 minutes and talked about what was going on,” Keene basketball coach Kevin Ritter said. “I won’t lie, it was very emotional for both the coaches and the team. We wanted to get closure on the fact that the game against Windham is likely the last game of our season.”