This is positive news in a time of uncertainty.
That is, as it plans to return to play when and if it is cleared to do so by the provincial government via regional public health units, the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League is already ahead of the game.
NOJHL commissioner Robert Mazzuca, in an interview with Hockey News North, has confirmed that each and every player who is back with their respective team following the Christmas holiday break has tested negative for the COVID-19 virus.
“We, as a league, made it mandatory that every player on every one of our teams was only allowed back in their respective community (after the Christmas break) if they had tested negative for COVID-19,” Mazzuca said evenly.
“And yes, to answer your question, all of our active teams have complied with this … and we do not have a single player who is back with their respective team who has tested positive.
“Further to that, all players from out of town have had to adhere to the 14-day quarantine rules as set out by the public health units. And I want to add that many of the out of town players on a number of our teams stayed where they were and did not go home for Christmas,” Mazzuca pointed out.
To be sure, Mazzuca and the NOJHL have been on top of the COVID-19 situation ever since the league’s 2020-2021 regular season began on November 13. Notably, 41 of the league’s 44 scheduled games before Christmas went on as slated — the three that did not were only postponed as precautionary measures and there was not a single positive test for COVID-19 among any player or team member.
Meanwhile, Ontario is currently scheduled to emerge from a province-wide lock down on January 23. And should the lock down be lifted for, in this case, northeastern Ontario, on that date, Mazzuca said the NOJHL would be ready to resume play “as soon as we received clearance from the provincial government and the various health units.”
When the NOJHL paused for play as scheduled just before Christmas, it had nine teams that were active — Soo Thunderbirds, Blind River Beavers, Espanola Express, Rayside Balfour Canadians, French River Rapids, Timmins Rock, Cochrane Crunch, Kirkland Lake Gold Miners and Hearst Lumberjacks.
And Mazzuca said all nine teams are now ready to resume play when and if they are given the go-ahead by the provincial government and the regional health units of northeastern Ontario.