One year ago today, the Ontario Hockey League announced the ending of the 2019-20 schedule due to COVID-19, by March 18th the league had announced the cancellation of the remaining games left on the schedule.
A year later, Niagara IceDogs’ players and staff reflected on their experiences in 2020, and the beginning of 2021.
Joey Burke, General Manager
“This has been an incredibly difficult time for everyone. Through this past year, I think it is clear that we have all grown as people, and even discovered new things about ourselves. I have always tried to approach everything in life with a positive attitude. Over the past year, this has been more difficult than ever. The most important thing I learned during this pandemic has been to control what you can, but do not stress over the things that are out of your hands. This past year has been one challenge after the next and it has been important for me to let go of control of the things happening around us, and just focus on being the best person I can. I think we have all had to learn a great deal of patience over the past year, as well. To think it’s been a full year since we took the ice is unbelievable, but I couldn’t be more encouraged that we are closer than ever to a return!”
Adrien Beraldo, Defenceman
“For me personally, I have learned to never leave anything to chance. In life, you don’t know what the future holds and you don’t know when it could be your last time doing something you love. It’s been over a year now and in a matter of days, my life had changed. From playing the game I love, to wondering if it was my last game and last practice in the OHL. Life is full of uncertainty and you can only control what you can control. Focusing on what you are doing today and not worrying about what tomorrow has in store. I’ve always been someone to enjoy and thrive from being challenged. I’ve never been handed anything. I truly miss all the tough, hard, and tiring days of being at the rink and working to get better every day. This pandemic has also drilled home to never take your health for granted. In a time like we are in right now the most important thing is your health and the health of your family. Your life can change drastically, in a flash. I hope this pandemic comes to an end so no more people will have to suffer anymore, and we can slowly get back to somewhat of a more normal life that we lived before.”
Cameron Butler, Forward
“Something I’ve learned during the time that we have not been able to play is how important mental toughness really is. It has been a year without hockey for us, and that has definitely taken its toll. It has been a year of ups and downs. This becomes very tough mentally and can drive a person insane. I’ve worked hard on trying to find the positives in each day and always keep an open mind moving forward. It’s difficult not being able to play but there isn’t much we can do about that so, that’s why it is important to focus on the positive and pick them out in everything I do. I hope to maintain and carry this attitude on the ice and also in my life away from the rink.”
Landon Cato, Defenceman
“I have learned new ways to start every day positively during a stressful time. I’ve taken a big interest in doing yoga. I found that if I do yoga every morning I feel ready for the day and I found that I have not experienced as much pain after my workouts and training sessions.”
Billy Burke, Head Coach
“I can still remember our last practice, I never would have thought it would be a year and we still aren’t back. My wife Jamie had our second baby in May 2020 so while the past year has had its challenges of raising two young boys during a pandemic, it’s also put a lot of things into perspective for me. I’m especially grateful to be able to spend every day at home with my family. I never take a day with the IceDogs for granted but being away this long has made me realize how much I love coaching and I miss it. I miss our team. I miss being at the rink every day with all of the players and staff. The camaraderie, the competition, the excitement, the highs and lows of the grind of a season.”
Lucas Theriault, Forward
“During the pandemic, not being able to play hockey has forced me to find new hobbies and activities to keep me busy. Normally I would have such a busy hockey schedule in the winter months, I was never able to experience any outdoor activities that I have always been interested in. Without hockey, I have learned how much I love the outdoors and the activities it has to offer. The pandemic has left us with several negatives to our lives in the past year but I believe it is important to recognize the positives it also brought, and that is definitely one of them.”
Mason Howard, Defenceman
“During the pandemic, there haven’t been many things I could do. Over the time off I’ve learned to keep myself busy throughout the day. Being outside getting fresh air has been one of the main things I have done to kill time and stay busy. Being outside made me appreciate the nature and outdoors. What I’ve learnt about myself over this time is that I need something to do at all times, I’m not a person who can sit still for very long. Keeping myself occupied has been something I learnt how to do better throughout this pandemic.”
As much as the IceDogs’ players and management have missed hockey, they have missed the fans and community interaction more. The entire organization wants to thank frontline workers for their perseverance and bravery. We wish to recognize those affected by the disease, especially those who have fallen ill or lost loved ones. These are difficult times, however, we are meeting the challenge together.