Organizers of the popular Little Native Hockey League tournament said Tuesday they are cancelling the event planned for 2021 because of COVID-19. (File)

Organizers of the popular Little Native Hockey League tournament said Tuesday they are cancelling the event planned for 2021 because of COVID-19.

The host committee and the LNHL executive met Oct. 29 via conference and made the decision not to go ahead next year.

"As you know, the onset of the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of the tournament earlier this year," organizers said in a news release. "Everyone involved was hopeful that the situation would improve and that Nipissing would host the tournament in 2021 instead.

"However, as we enter the second wave of this global pandemic, and with so much uncertainty still ahead, regrettably the tournament organizers decided that the 2021 LNHL will be cancelled."

Safety concerns amid a second wave of the coronavirus forced the decision, the release said.

"In the course of our deliberations, we also discussed the possibility of postponing the tournament until later in the year and the feasibility of hosting a regional format," the release said. "Having considered all of the many factors, we have decided that a postponement or alternate format was not feasible."

The annual event includes hundreds of teams – 223 were registered for the 2020 event – and "requires a tremendous amount of time, energy and work from both the host community and LNHL executive committee members, the release said.

"There is so much that goes into organizing the LNHL, including the management of logistics and hockey operations, team and player registration, volunteer coordination, facility management and accommodations, special events, as well as soliciting sponsorship revenues to offset the various costs."

Many children are not playing hockey this year because of the pandemic, and fundraising events to support the tournament have been impacted.

“The decision to cancel this event for the second year in a row is regrettable, but unavoidable in light of the serious health risks associated with COVID-19 and its rapid spread in urban centres,” said Nipissing Chief Scott McLeod. “Our team worked so hard to host what would have been an incredible tournament.”

He said council will need to discuss the possibility of Nipissing hosting LNHL 2022 at a later date.

“Our No. 1 priority is the health and safety of community members including the youth, players, coaches and elders,” said LNHL President Marian Jacko. “While are very saddened to have to make this decision, we know it is critical in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 to First Nation communities. With all things considered, it is simply too risky to proceed at this time."