As hockey is cancelled …

Randy Russon
March 15, 2020

The games will not be played for a while. In fact, while some leagues are simply in a hold pattern, others have downright cancelled the balance of the current season due to the global pandemic.

In the Ontario Hockey League, play has been suspended, at least for the time being. And it is not known when — or if — the 2019-2020 OHL season will resume.

At lower levels and close to home, both the Sault Major Hockey Association and Soo Pee Wee Hockey League have shut down play for the 2019-2020 season.

And on a regional basis, both the Great North Midget Hockey League and the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League have closed shop for the season while in the midst of playoffs — and there will be no playing for those precious championships.

Meantime, there are money issues relative to player fee refunds and coaches salaries — to name a few — that need to be determined. There will be lost revenue related to transportation, entertainment, food and beverage and gates and concessions that companies and teams rely on.

To be sure, health is the main concern — as it should be. But the cancellation of games and events effects anyone and everyone who has even the slightest involvement.

In the Great North loop, the cancellation of the season came at the outset of the first-ever round-robin playoff tournament — featuring the six major midget teams — that would determine the league champion.

Adding to the unfortunate timing of the cancellation was that the six major midget teams — Soo Jr. Greyhounds, Kapuskasing Flyers, North Bay Trappers, Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves, Timmins Majors and New Liskeard Cubs — had never before experienced such a balanced, competitive season. And what also hurts is the fact that both Timmins and New Liskeard were fresh from their best regular season records in several seasons.

As for the NOJHL, the abrupt end of the season came as eight teams — four in each of the East and West divisions — were getting ready for semi-final playoff action. There was much anticipation about the division semis in that seven of the eight teams that were ready to take to the ice won 30 or more games out of 56 regular season matches, which was parity at its absolute finest.

On the East side, the Powassan Voodoos and Timmins Rock were both coming off spectacular regular seasons and the Hearst Lumberjacks were ready to defend their NOJHL championship while all being aware of the lurking Cochrane Crunch.

And in the wild West, the Rayside Balfour Canadians and Blind River Beavers were both built for lengthy playoff runs while first facing formidable foes in the Soo Thunderbirds and Soo Eagles.

Small market Blind River, with a town population of less than 4,000, had put together a franchise-best record of 37 regular-season wins and with league most valuable player Caleb Serre — a hometown kid to boot — winding down a sensational four-year NOJHL career, the Beavers were poised for a spring fling backed by the one-two goalie tandem of 20-year olds Jackson Hjelle and Dominic Boily.

Then there was Rayside Balfour, under the first-year ownership of the philanthropic Mark Burgess and his long-time sidekick — from decades together with the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League — Blaine Smith.

If ever the NOJHL has had an upper management version of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, it might well be Burgess and Smith.

Any way, for many — too many — a season has been lost. A season without a fitting end of champions crowned and players graduating on ice.

But the virus won’t last forever, will it?

Spring will soon be sprung. Hope will again spring eternal.

This is indeed a setback in the game of life.

But at some point, the games will again be played.

PHOTO: Both the Rayside Balfour Canadians and Blind River Beavers were preparing for playoff runs when the NOJHL season came to a halt.

What you think about “As hockey is cancelled …”

  1. The New Liskeard Cubs coming off the best season in years? They finished last among the major teams in sixth place, fell well short of the .500 mark and as the coach said, the season was tough. I have read spin before but this is a new level. The silver lining to the Cubs season was the GNML naming coach Steve Polyblank as Coach of the Year.

    1. While you are being negative, Sue, do your home work. New Liskeard’s win-loss record of this season — 16-20-2 — was its best in years. Look it up on your own. Meantime, have a good, negative day, “Sue.”

  2. Heartbreaker these would have been the best playoffs ever with great crowds. Now it’s long nights with no sports sucks

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