Less than a week ago, the Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals were preparing to begin what they hoped would be a long playoff run.
The Caps were scheduled to open the Maritime Junior Hockey League (MHL) post-season on Saturday, but it turned out to be the final time the team would gather. The Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL) announced the cancellation of all junior A playoffs across the country, along with regional and national championships, on Friday due to the coronavirus (COVID-19).
“We are all pretty devastated, but bigger things are going on in the world and we understand that,” said Caps captain and Summerside native Brodie MacArthur, who was named the MHL’s player of the year last week after becoming the league’s all-time points leader and winning the scoring race with 108 points – 45 goals and 63 assists.
Instead of preparing to face the Fredericton Red Wings, the Caps quietly cleaned out their lockers and packed up their gear, knowing this would be the final time this group would be together as a team.
“The heartbreak in the players (Saturday) when we did our exit (meetings) was a very emotional time,” said Caps general manager Pat McIver. “You feel there is some unfinished business, for sure.”
This year’s Caps were entering the playoffs with high expectations after finishing with a league-best record of 42-7-3 (won-lost-overtime losses) and finishing as the second-ranked team in the final CJHL national top-20 rankings.
“To be honest, I am completely heartbroken with the way things have gone down for our hockey team, especially for that 20-year-old group that has been here for three and four years,” said Caps head coach Billy McGuigan. “Guys like (Kallum) Muirhead, Brodie MacArthur, Brodie MacMillan, Zach Thususka, Dom Tmej.”
It’s an ending no one envisioned.
“It’s just hitting us now that it’s over,” said MacArthur, one of eight graduates this year. “The last four years have been special and I have made a lot of new friends.
“The biggest part is we didn’t get the chance to hold that trophy over our head. As players, we are all close and that’s the biggest part of it.”
MacArthur, McGuigan and McIver all emphasized that while they are disappointed there are no playoffs, they all understand why they are not playing.
“It was tough, but the important thing is everyone is safe and healthy,” said the 20-year-old MacArthur, who hopes to play at the university level next season.
McGuigan and McIver are also looking at COVID-19 from a family perspective.
“As a husband and parent, you want to protect your family as much as you can,” said McGuigan. “It’s something that is out of our control and hopefully, it passes.”
There will no doubt be lots of debates on just how far this Caps’ team would have gone.
“I truly felt we had a team that was going to go all the way,” said McIver. “I honestly felt we could have gone to the Centennial Cup (national championship).
“It was a remarkable season, a lot of individual success. I’m proud of Brodie MacArthur setting some records, Dom Tmej, three years in a row being (the MHL’s) top goaltender.
“Our staff, led by Billy, being recognized as coach of the year. We were just getting started. I truly felt we had two or three more good months of hockey in us and we were going to play into May.
“It’s been a very emotional week and very disappointing right now.”
McGuigan said he was extremely proud of this year’s Caps. He noted the team was playing its best hockey of the season entering the playoffs.
“The way we prepared for playoffs and the staff put in so much time, the chemistry we had and the leadership and character, I think there was going to be no stopping us,” said McGuigan. “I’m real proud of the accomplishments of this group and it was rewarding to coach these young men and see them grow as a team.
“It’s devastating right now, but there will always be a special spot in my heart for this group.”
- Click here for story on GM Pat McIver looking ahead to next season:
- Click here for story on MHL playoffs cancelled:
- Click here for story on Western Capitals receiving MHL awards:
- Click here for story on Western Capitals named MHL all-stars: