NOJHL poised to return

Randy Russon
February 15, 2021
Soo Thunderbirds and Espanola Express, in December action. (photo by Bob Davies)

Barring any sort of setback relative to COVID-19, the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League could resume regular season play within a week or so.

Sources have told Hockey News North that NOJHL commissioner Rob Mazzuca and team representatives have scheduled a conference call for Tuesday evening relative to a return to play.

Some teams have already confirmed a scheduled return to on-ice practice sessions for as early as Tuesday.

In the interim, Mazzuca told Hockey News North that the NOJHL could extend its 2020-2021 season to the end of April — and possibly beyond — with the co-operation of municipalities and the four public health units that he deals with.

“Let me say that in dealing with Algoma Public Health, Sudbury District Public Health, Timiskaming Public Health and Porcupine Public Health that the individuals who I have dealt with in every unit have not only been professional to deal with but they have been helpful in every way possible,” Mazzuca relayed.

Looking back, under the leadership of Mazzuca and the strict adherence to guidelines by its member teams, the league managed to play 41 of the 44 games that were scheduled between Nov. 13 and Dec. 22.

The only three games not played were as a result of precautionary measures taken by the NOJHL. And it is worth noting that not one team official or player tested positive for COVID-19.

The NOJHL also managed to switch cohort opponents from November to December.

Play began in November with home-and-home series of games featuring French River Rapids v. Espanola Express, Blind River Beavers v. Soo Thunderbirds, Rayside Balfour Canadians v. Timmins Rock and Hearst Lumberjacks v. Cochrane Crunch. Kirkland Lake Gold Miners sat out as the ninth team.

Over to December, series match-ups were Espanola v. the Soo, Blind River v. Rayside Balfour, Hearst v. Timmins and Cochrane v. Kirkland Lake. French River sat out as the ninth team.

In the West Division, Espanola (4-4-2) and Rayside Balfour (3-6-1) have both played 10 games, Blind River (5-3-0) and the Soo (4-3-1) have seen action in eight outings apiece, while French River (3-3-0) has skated in six contests.

And in the East Division, Timmins (9-3-0) and Hearst (7-5-0) have both played 12 games, Cochrane (3-6-2) has been involved in 11 outings and Kirkland Lake (3-2-0) has skated in six matches.

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