“OJHL announces plans for 2020-2021 season; prompt player development path with teams committed to season without fans if required”
Mississauga, ON – The Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL) announced today the league’s plan for return to play for the 2020-21 season.
It is usual and customary for the OJHL and its clubs to commence their operations in the last half of August with regular season games typically commencing in early-September.
While the ongoing pandemic may delay this season’s start, with a number of new measures and return to play protocols aimed at player, staff and fan safety being required for implementation, the OJHL is working closely with all relevant authorities – inside and outside of hockey – with a view to starting up “new normal” operations for the upcoming season.
The OJHL has developed several starting date scenarios for commencement of the 2020/2021 regular season inclusive of potential start dates as early as September with approval from all respective authorities. In the meantime, the league has initiated a “Return to the Rink Committee” who have been working to develop guidelines and procedures that meet all of authority requirements to allow teams to have their players back on their development paths with the safety of the athlete and support staff at the forefront, with key mandates consisting of:
- Developing and implementing a comprehensive protocols-based plan for player’s and staff safety.
- Initiating a detailed plan focused on the return of its players to the ice safely beginning in mid-to late-August with a high focus on player development in accordance with all applicable Provincial and Municipal regulations
- Establish a multi-scenario schedule with return to play as early as September if approved in conjunction with Member Branch, Provincial and municipal guidelines
- Evaluating and subsequently confirming league-wide team approval of regular season commencement without fan revenues if necessary
“The OJHL Board of Governors are first and foremost committed to the safety of not only our players but all of the support staff of our clubs and the communities we play in”, said Marty Savoy, OJHL Commissioner.“Our Governors understand the importance of the development stage our players are at and as such have made the decision that once approval has been provided to return to full hockey the OJHL regular season will start regardless if fans are allowed in our buildings”.
The league also announced it has developed a two-phased process to allow players to get back to the ice which includes a phase with a specific emphasis of the return to training and development of the player, inclusive of inter-squad and inter-team scrimmages. A second phase wasalso announced where full games will be played during a regular season and playoff schedule once authority approval is granted.
Phase 1“Training”– The training and evaluation of players under the current guidelines provided by the Ontario Government.
Phase 1 includes modified “scrimmages” that meet all regulatory guidelines for team sports, as well as conditioning, on ice skilled base practices, individual and team tactics, and player evaluation. The Training Phase will begin mid to end of August with teams in regions that fall within the allowable activities of the Ontario Government’s return plan.
Phase 2 “Competition”- The return of full games and league schedule within the OJHL.The full season will begin once approval has been provided by the Ontario Government and the league’s governing bodies.The start of the OJHL 2020-2021 season will not be dependent on the allowance of fans at games and will commence once approval has been provided for full hockey.
“While we want to get back to having our clubs play hockey, it is difficult in the face of so much uncertainty for the OJHL to be less than clear and definitive. We are confident that the league will be ready when all necessary “green lights” have been given,” stated OJHL Chairman Marc Mercier.
“Until such clarity emerges, the OJHL is committed to providing its teams, players, staff, volunteers, fans and municipal leaders with weekly updates. The last thing we wish to do is proceed without lots of forethought and planning or in a manner that is not in compliance with all applicable health and hockey authorities or otherwise compromises the league’s unwavering commitment to health and safety of all of those involved.”