Lakers season up in the air

Natali Trivuncic
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Fort Frances Lakers have not had the season they were hoping for because of the COVID-19 pandemic but are still trying to stay positive.

Ron MacKinnon was the assistant coach for the Lakers but has since stepped in as interim head coach of the team following former coach Bernie Lynch suspension in January.

MacKinnon said the team has not been able to practice due to lockdown restrictions which lead to the decision of sending players home a few weeks ago. For some that means traveling back to B.C, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and London, Ontario.

“It’s just wait and see what happened with the Ontario government and lockdown,” MacKinnon said. “I know the players are skating when they can or where they can in hopes of a season happening.”

MacKinnon said it may be difficult to bring the team back together depending on provincial guidelines but he said they will do “whatever they have to do.”

The Lakers were set to play 16 games after their two-week break with their first game against the Thunder Bay North Stars but were then hit with the news of the second lockdown. The games have since been postponed but MacKinnon said there is no word on what will happen after the lockdown.

“It’s going to be tough because local arenas are closing and taking out the ice so if something does happen, it’s going to be challenging for sure,” MacKinnon said.

MacKinnon said he was most looking forward to getting on the ice with the team and having some normalcy. He adds that he feels sorry for those on the team that are aging out of the league.

“We had seven 20-year-olds so I feel for them,” MacKinnon said. “But all the players would essentially lose a season if it gets cancelled.”

MacKinnon said he has coached local minor hockey and girl’s hockey in Fort Frances for 15 years and coaching some of the players on the Lakers would have been a full circle moment.

“There’s some players on the team that I would have been their first coach and their last coach,” MacKinnon said. “I’ve got a couple of 19-year-olds that I coached them in their first year of hockey and the opportunity to coach them when they’re 19/20 years old is kind of cool.”

MacKinnon said it was disappointing to send everyone home because if a season does not happen, it will have been the last time he saw the players that are leaving the team after this season.

Despite all the obstacles the team has faced, he thanks the community for sticking with them.

“We had billet families that opened their doors to players during this time, putting themselves and their families at risk with COVID,” MacKinnon said. “The board has still worked all year trying to raise money so that if it happened there would be money so that we can function.”

Mackinnon said he hopes that everyone is looking forward to next season and he can’t wait to have the arena packed with fans in the stands again.