With the Osoyoos Coyotes unable to play all but three games during their 2020/21 season due to the ongoing pandemic, there is a hint of cautious optimism for the return to something resembling a normal hockey season.
Patience has been key for Coyotes owner Randy Bedard and the team, with many young players unfortunately losing out on a year of games.
“I think it’s probably like everyone else we’re just going one day at a time. It was a bit of a struggle with the unknown, but when we were in Phase 3 we did end up getting three regular season games and just sort of just got shut down on a dime,” Bedard said.
“All we’re doing is just hoping that things progress a whole lot better here moving forward and we get back to a form of normalcy for hockey, by late summertime for camp into the season. So it’s just a day-by-day waiting game at this point.”
The Coyotes put out a heartfelt thanks on social media to fans, billets, the Town of Osoyoos and the many volunteers and supporters who stuck by the team’s side during a difficult year for everyone.
“It is very unfortunate for us as a group,” said head coach Carter Rigby in the team’s statement. “We were looking forward to seeing what we had as a group on the ice and to not be able to see a full year play out is heartbreaking. I feel for the older players who didn’t get a chance to finish their seasons and careers. I feel for the young talent we have, that didn’t get to showcase their abilities this season, and hopefully get a chance to move on next year.”
The team will also lose some of its top talent with players aging out of the league.
"It’s very disappointing for us that we weren’t able to finish the season but I’m very proud of the way we came together in the short time we were playing,” said Coyotes captain Andrew Smiley, who along with Jordan Berschiminsky, and Tyson Soobotin spent his last year in junior hockey with the Coyotes. “It is disappointing that we weren’t given the opportunity to make a run with this group but we understand that public safety is everyone’s top priority right now,”
“Thank you to the community in Osoyoos for supporting us through this tough time and giving me a home for my last year of junior hockey.”
Losing players for various reasons including the uncertainty moving forward, the focus for the Coyotes going forward is now on recruitment.
“Carter is already working on that. You lose your 20-year-olds, unless they come back with some sort of stipulation that the 20s get an extra year because of what happened – I haven’t heard anything in that regard – so you lose your 20-year-olds. I know there’s probably a few players too that because of the uncertainty maybe want to get on with their lives a little bit,” Bedard said. “I’m sure we’ll have a few players that are going to stay with us this season, but I think there’s a lot of recruiting that has to be done again as well too.”
While it is unclear where the world will be when hockey season comes around again, Bedard and the Coyotes are planning as if it were any other year while preparing for the complications that may come.
“You want to feel (optimistic) but you don’t want to get your hopes up too much. But you have got to follow through and do all your preparation and planning as if everything is going to be normal, because if you don’t and it is, you’re going to be caught with your pants down,” Bedard said.
“We’ll see how it goes through the spring and the summer and take it from there.”
Dale Boyd, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Times-Chronicle