“I think of amateur athletes. They train for four years to get there. They don’t get paid like millionaire hockey players. ”

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In a world without COVID-19, University of Ottawa Gee-Gees hockey coach Patrick Grandmaître would wear the colors of Canada in Switzerland this week.

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Instead, he’s working on some home repairs in Gatineau, keeping his head down and keeping his fingers crossed that the fast-moving Omicron variant doesn’t disrupt another college season or Canadian amateur athletes lose their Olympic dreams.

“It’s almost like I don’t want to think about it,” said Grandmaître, who was on Canada’s coaching staff for the FISU University Games in Lucerne, which were abruptly canceled after the Omicron cases began to spread to South Africa and Europe. “For me, it is day by day, hoping that everything goes well. I was talking to a friend who is on another level of hockey and he doesn’t want to think about that either. “

Gee-Gees defender Nicolas Mattinen was also part of the men’s team that was originally heading to the varsity championships in Switzerland. Christine Deaudelin and Aurelie Dubuc, and assistant coach Greg Bowles were on the national women’s varsity roster. Biathletes Zoe Pekos and Shilo Rousseau were also scheduled to compete.

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It seems that every day there are new concerns about the continuation of sports at all levels, from children’s games to the NHL. The Carolina Hurricanes and Minnesota Wild had their game postponed Tuesday due to too many players on the COVID-19 protocol. The Calgary Flames are in limbo, with their games this week postponed.

The mounting problems of the global pandemic could lead some, and perhaps all, NHL players to opt out of the Olympics, scheduled for Beijing from February 4 to 20.

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However, Grandmaître’s greatest sympathies are with low-key athletes who try to juggle health issues alongside their sporting passions.

He has seen it first hand. The Gee-Gees were at the U Sports Championships in March 2019 when COVID-19 first hit, ending their bid to win a national title.

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After a 20-month absence, college hockey finally made a comeback in November. Only five of the 25 players who were on the Gee-Gees roster in 2019 remain.

Now comes the cancellation of the international university event.

“I cannot go (to Switzerland) as a coach, but I will apply again to go in another year,” Grandmaître said. “But for Nicolas Mattinen, it is his last year at U Sports, probably his last chance to represent Canada. The (FISU) is a special event, the real deal, with opening ceremonies, closing ceremonies and an athlete village. “

The next big international sporting event is of course the Olympics, with the potential risk factors of the Omicron variant looming over everything and everyone.

“I think of amateur athletes,” said Grandmaître. “They train for four years to get there. They are not paid like millionaire hockey players. Hopefully, they still have a chance to go to the Olympics. This is the pinnacle. Hopefully, they can find a way to stay healthy. “

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The U Sports season is currently on a vacation break. The Gee-Gees men’s team is scheduled to return to action on January 7 against Concordia, but if we’ve learned anything in the last two years, it’s about not taking anything for granted when there’s a pandemic in the air.

Grandpa is not getting ahead of himself.

“I trust people who know, science and the medical community,” Grandmaître said. “I am a specialist in my trade as a hockey coach. They are specialists in their fields. I just hope this (season) doesn’t stray from us again. “

The Gee-Gees are off to a good start to the season.

They lead the OUA Far East rankings with a 5-2-1 record and rank ninth in the country. The Carleton Ravens are in third place with a 4-3-1 record.

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After being away for so long, Grandmaître says there has been excitement every step of the way to get back to normal. That includes being able to have all the players in the same dressing room.

On the ice, the intensity was high and the injured list was growing before the break.

“We are in a tough division and every night feels like a playoff game,” he said. “We have a very, very young team, but the league in general is young. Everyone is so excited to play, everyone is freaking out, the guys are trying to rip each other’s heads off. You don’t necessarily see that all the time (early in the season). “

As the season gathers momentum with the new year, you can only hope it won’t be a case of pandemic déjà vu again.

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Twitter.com/Citizenkwarren

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