The Canada Cup has been cancelled.
The annual tournament that brings many of the top international women’s softball players to South Surrey – as well as hundreds of youth players – will not be played this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, organizers announced Thursday morning.
Originally scheduled to take place July 3-12, the tournament was expected to be the largest event in Canada Cup’s history, with more than 110 teams registered to compete.
“It’s incredibly disappointing for the young athletes who count on this event as a marquee showcase tournament,” longtime tournament chairman Greg Timm said in a release.
“Hundreds of scholarships for academic institutions across North America for these exceptional female athletes come out of this event, and the cancellation is a significant loss to our sport.”
Cup organizers say planning has started for the 2021 tournament, which is scheduled to take place next summer from July 2-12.
The cancellation of the tournament was not unexpected, considering events and leagues across the world – both pro and amateur sports, alike – have been cancelled or have had play suspended since earlier this spring. Also throwing a wrench into the mix for the Canada Cup was the fact that teams typically come from across the U.S., Europe, Asia and Australia, and travel is currently severely prohibited.
The Canada Cup was first played in 1993, and with the exception of 1997, was played each summer in South Surrey until 2010, when the event was renamed the Canadian Open Fastpitch International Championship.
The Open, while still featuring international competition, had a stronger focus on youth teams. The event ran in that format until 2016, when it was replaced by the 30-team 2016 Women’s World Softball Championships.
At the conclusion of that world tournament – which was won by the United States – organizers announced the Canada Cup moniker would return, and with it, a renewed focus on international play.
The Cup has been played in each of the last three summers, with Canada’s national women’s team winning the gold medal in the women’s international division the last two years.
The cancellation of this summer’s tournament is the second major blow handed to women’s softball courtesy of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, after it was announced earlier this spring that the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo would be pushed ahead to 2021. This year’s event was supposed to mark the return of women’s softball and men’s baseball to the Olympic docket after a 12-year absence.
“While we recognize the inherent complexities around a postponement, nothing is more important than the health and safety of our athletes and the world community,” the COC said in a statement in late March. “This is not solely about athlete health — it is about public health. With COVID-19 and the associated risks, it is not safe for our athletes, and the health and safety of their families and the broader Canadian community for athletes to continue training towards these Games.”
The Canadian women’s softball team has a number of local players on its roster, including former White Rock Renegades pitchers Sara Groenewegen and Danielle Lawrie-Locke, and Cloverdale’s Holly Speers.
“I am unsure how to feel right now,” Groenewegen wrote in an Instagram post in March, shortly after the Olympic decision was announced.
“Some athletes, like myself, have worked our entire lives for this year, this one moment in our careers. Us softball athletes haven’t had the opportunity to ‘get another chance’ in another four years as our sport was removed from the Olympic stage in 2008.”
Softball has already been removed from the 2024 Olympics, but could be reinstated for the 2028 event, which is scheduled for Los Angeles.
Also last week, Softball Canada announced the cancellation of all 10 of its Canadian championship tournaments, which were scheduled for various cities between late July and early September.
Surrey and White Rock teams have often fared extremely well at national age-group championships. Last year, the White Rock Renegades ’04 won a national title, going undefeated in Calgary, while the well-decorated 2002-born Renegades – who previously won national crowns at the U16 and U14 levels – finished third at the U19 championships in Kitchener, Ont.
In a May 20 news release, Softball Canada president Scott Neiles called the decision to pull the plug on national championships “an extremely difficult one.”