How is COVID-19 affecting sports of interest to St. Louis fans? SLU, Mizzou Mens Basketball are latest cancellations

By Sally Tippett Rains

It seems like every week lately there are new cancellations or changes due to the current COVID-19 situation. St. Louis area sports fans are  just as affected as others around  the country, and Tuesday morning brought another one.
On Tuesday it was announced the Saint Louis University men’s basketball game against Lasalle scheduled for Wednesday Jan. 5 was postponed. The University of Missouri men’s basketball game that was scheduled against Mississippi State for Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022 at Mizzou Arena has also been postponed due to a combination of positive tests, contact tracing and subsequent quarantining of individuals within the Mizzou program.
Sports fans were banking on the new year to bring more stability in the sports world as more and more people are vaccinated and boosted, but it’s beginning to look more like 2020 again.
In 2020 several large St. Louis based events were canceled including the first two rounds of the  NCAA Men’s Basketball Championships. Things didn’t seem to be as bad in 2021, but as the world crossed the threshold between December of 2021 into January of 2022 there was more uncertainty regarding  COVID-19 with the emergence of the Omicron variant– on the heels of the Delta strain.
Recently, the Blues vs. New Jersey Devils game scheduled for Dec. 27 at Enterprise Center  was postponed. The NHL actually announced all games scheduled for that day–Monday, Dec. 27– were postponed.
The Blues were back in action and  participated in the Winter Classic on New Years Day and  won it 6-4 over the Minnesota Wild. They are scheduled to play Pittsburgh on Wednesday in Pittsburgh.
Besides the Lasalle game this Wednesday, the Saint Louis University Billikens basketball’s game against  UMass on Dec. 27 was postponed due to COVID-19.  (They had just had a game on Mon. Dec.20 canceled against Drake  due to COVID-19 protocols.)
Their next game, Jan. 2  vs. Richmond at Chafeitz Arena was played as scheduled but then more bad news as the Jan. 5 game was canceled. Both the mens and women’s team at SLU have been had recent difficulties and the schedule (from their website) shown right gives a good indication how it is going. It starts with a Dec. 22  cancelatiion and shows that the next game is Saturday, Jan. 8 if they are able to travel to St. Bonaventure in New York.
There are two other new St. Louis sports teams affected by the pandemic, and neither of them will play this year.  The BattleHawks started and ended in 2020 due to the pandemic; and the new soccer team St. Louis City SC  is pushing back its start date. St. Louis City had aimed to start  in 2022, but due to COVID-19 it was decided it would be best if the team started play in 2023.
2023 could be a big year for the BattleHawks as well– if they come back. The new XFL league started by Vince McMahan in 2020, turned out to be bad timing, and the league shut down.   New league owner Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson” hopes the league will return to operation this summer with games expected to start in February of 2023. Waiting that long to get started is a result of the continued problems with the pandemic, but it does look like there’s a strong chance St. Louis will be in the mix when they do come back.
The Cardinals are not even in the discussion of COVID-19 cancellations right now, for other reasons. If it were a normal year there might be questions about the Cardinals Care Winter Warm-Up. It is scheduled to take place Jan. 15-17.
As of Tuesday morning they don’t even know if having it will be on the table– not because of the coronavirus, but because of the lockout.
An announcement is expected later this week if they will be having the Winter Warm-Up and after that the discussion can start about COVID-19 safety.
Covid 19 is affecting other venues in St. Louis; not just sports.
On Jan. 31, 2021 it was announced that the remainder of Winterfest 2021 in Kiener Plaza, as well as the New Year’s Eve celebration was canceled  due to increasing cases and concerns of COVID-19. The festival was scheduled to run through Sunday, Jan. 2.
The popular O’Connell’s Pub closed Wed. Dec. 29 temporarily and the owner, John Parker told KSDK: “Omicron came on like a tidal wave and changed everything, I went in Monday morning and I tested positive. We got four confirmed cases and others likely.”
It was not good to hear about O’Connell’s and some other restaurants who announced they were closing, as St. Louisans remember when it was a daily occurrence to see which restaurants were closing temporarily or moving to pick-up only and closing their dining rooms.
Then on New Years  Eve (2021 leading into this year), James Bommarito decided to close the popular Tony’s in Clayton for the next two weeks. He told St. Louis Magazine he was getting cancellations left and right due to COVID and that he would pay his employees and plan to reopen Jan. 11.
And ‘here we go again’ is what they must be thinking in East St. Louis as the  East St. Louis School District announced its students will learn remotely from January 4 to January 14. Kirkwood School District announced students would again be required to wear masks at school– and many other school districts are making tough decisions including Affton, Brentwood, Clayton, and Hazelwood.

Washington University announced classes would start remotely for the spring semester. and Saint Louis University announced it was requiring students and employees to have their booster vaccines by Jan. 31.

After the disastrous shutdowns of 2020 people were so optimistic about 2021. It seemed there was a collective running out of the house and hugging friends and loved-ones, but slowly hopes of the pandemic coming to an end began to be dashed and reality is starting to sink in that it might be getting worse– at least that is what we seem to be being told.

Just this week the World Health Organization director said the pandemic could end in 2022 if global vaccination rates continue to climb. COULD end in 2022? Let’s hope it does end and the St. Louis Sports Commission is able to hold their upcoming events.

Here a few of the events scheduled and listed on the St. Louis Sports Commissions website:

2022 ACHA National Championships March 10-20, 2022 – Centene Community Ice Center

2022 NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships March 11-12, 2022 – Chaifetz Arena

2022 NCAA Division II Women’s Lacrosse Championship May 20-22, 2022 – Harlen C. Hunter Stadium

2022 NASCAR Cup Series Race June 5, 2022 – WWT Raceway

2022 Bommarito Automotive Group 500 INDYCAR Aug. 20, 2022 – WWT Raceway

2022 Ascension Charity Classic Sept. 5-11, 2022 – Norwood Hills Country Club

The Cardinals home opener is scheduled for Thursday, April 7, against Pittsburgh, but a lot has to happen before that can take place.

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For the latest news and features in St. Louis Sports check out Rob Rains, Editor.