We can only hope this works out at some point this season. Having said that, the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League has confirmed its initial ‘return to play’ outline for the 2020-2021 season.
While it has traditionally been the plan, in previous years, for the NOJHL and its member teams to commence daily operations mid August and have regular season games typically starting in early September, those options have currently been delayed due to the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic.
In lieu of the delay to the commencement of the 2020-2021 campaign, the NOJHL is presently implementing ‘return to play policies and procedures’, which are aimed at player, staff and fan safety.
According to commissioner Rob Mazzuca, the NOJHL is working closely with all relevant authorities to assist in starting up ‘new normal’ operations for the upcoming season.
Ergo, with that in mind, the NOJHL has developed several upcoming starting dates for the beginning of the 2020-2021 regular season, inclusive of potential start dates as early as October 15, pending approval from all respective authorities.
In the meantime, according to Mazzuca, the safety of the athlete and support staff remains at the forefront, with a key mandate consisting of:
- A developed comprehensive Return to Play Policy and Procedures Protocols-based plan for players and staff safety.
- Focus on player development in accordance with all applicable provincial and municipal regulations.
“The NOJHL board of directors are first and foremost committed to the safety of not only our players, but all of the support staff of our clubs and the people in the communities we play in,” added Mazzuca.
As part of the league’s ‘return to play’ guidelines, the NOJHL has developed a two-phased process to allow players to get back to the ice, which includes a phase with a specific emphasis on the return to skills, drills and conditioning.
A second phase will be based once Ontario government approval for training camps and the start of the regular season has been received.
Would include ‘skills and drills’ that meet all regulatory guidelines for team sports, as well as on and off-ice conditioning.
The NOJHL also strongly believes there is a unique opportunity for under-18 and U-16 aged players to participate during Phase 1 on-ice sessions.
The return of full games and a league schedule within the member clubs of the NOJHL.
The full season would begin once approval has been provided by the Government of Ontario and the Ontario Hockey Federation.
“It has been six long months without competition, but while we want to get back to having our clubs play hockey, it remains difficult in the face of so much uncertainty,” said Mazzuca.
“We are confident that the league will be ready when all necessary approvals have been given, which will allow the players to safely get back on the ice and begin focusing on skills, training and development as a prelude to the 2020-2021 season.”
The NOJHL is committed to providing its teams, players, staff, volunteers, fans and municipal leaders with regular updates as they occur, said Mazzuca.
“Our goal to do is proceed with plenty of forethought and planning, in a manner that is compliant with all applicable health and hockey authorities involved,” Mazzuca added.
“The unwavering commitment to health and safety of all of those involved remains paramount,” he concluded.
The NOJHL is an 11 team league with two divisions.
In the East Division are the Hearst Lumberjacks, Timmins Rock, Cochrane Crunch, Kirkland Lake Gold Miners, Powassan Voodoos and French River Rapids.
Teams in the West Division are the Soo Eagles, Soo Thunderbirds, Blind River Beavers, Espanola Express and Rayside Balfour Canadians.