Pandemic Forces Thief River Falls Norskies and Wisconsin Lumberjacks from the 2020-21 SIJHL season

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Hockey

Thunder Bay – SPORTS – The Superior International Junior Hockey League is announcing today that the Thief River Falls Norskies and the Wisconsin Lumberjacks are pausing their activities for the 2020-21 SIJHL season due to restrictions arising from the COVID-19 global pandemic.

“This is a sad day for the Norskies, the Lumberjacks and indeed the entire SIJHL,” said League Commissioner Darrin Nicholas.

While there are several challenges facing each SIJHL franchise brought on by the pandemic that caused a delay to the start of the season and a greatly reduced schedule and now a second lockdown in the Province of Ontario, it is the ongoing closure of the US / Canadian border to non-essential travel that continues to make it impossible for the league’s only two US-based teams to see a pathway to meaningful participation in any league regular season or playoff schedule.

“My heart goes out to the players, staff, management and all those associated with both teams and especially David Beito of the Norskies and Doug and Sophia Lein of the Lumberjacks who have worked tirelessly to try and find a way to get their respective teams on the ice. Unfortunately, the challenges facing our US members appear insurmountable this winter / spring.” Nicholas continued.

“We did everything in our power to find a way to play hockey at the high level the SIJHL provides. We have run out of solutions and regretfully cancel our 2020-2021 season with an eye to a very exciting and successful season starting in 2021,” said Norskies team Governor David Beito. “The Norskies appreciates the SIJHL for sticking with us and looking for any opportunity to get the Norskies into action this year. We wish our Canadian SIJHL teams the best of luck in the remainder of this season.”

The Wisconsin Lumberjacks are also disappointed but optimistic. “The Wisconsin Lumberjacks are looking forward to getting ready to compete again in the 2021-2022 season and are ready to put this lost season behind us. On behalf of everyone within our organization, we want to thank our Commissioner and the league for the tireless work in trying to find a way for us to compete this season.

It just wasn’t in the cards. Best of luck to our Canadian partners and their respective clubs as they carry the torch for the league and fight for a championship.” said Lumberjacks President, Sophia Lein Nicholas was quick to emphasize two points about the situation. “Firstly, neither the Norskies nor the Lumberjacks ‘opted-out’ of our season. That would imply the existence of a pathway for them to have participated in our schedule, and they have chosen not to. Nothing could be further from the truth. Secondly, both of our US-based teams are integral partners in the SIJHL, and we look forward to having them back on the ice in September 2021.”

The SIJHL schedule for the remainder of the 2020-21 season featuring the league’s 5 Canadian-based teams plus guest teams will be released in the coming days.