No one has the direct answer to the start date question.
No one can say with any certainty when the relatively free COVID-19 zones that encompass the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League will be cleared to play.
But — and the word ‘but’ is a big word, more so than ever, perhaps, during these times of pandemic — there is a general feeling out there that if all goes well, the NOJHL will be playing games by early to mid November.
It is believed that, all things being equal — as in no major second wave of COVID-19 and no sudden surge of cases in northeastern Ontario — that the NOJHL will begin its 2020-2021 season by November.
Not that anyone is saying that, for the record.
As in, NOJHL commissioner Robert Mazzuca has set no definite date on a return to play.
Mazzuca may have some sort of idea, be it from the hockey powers in Ontario that oversee the NOJHL. And he may have some sort of idea in reading between the lines of any conversation that he may have had with a public health official in Ontario.
But, to be sure, Mazzuca is a careful, concise person who happens to be smart, street smart, and educated. He does not play guessing games and he hasn’t stuck it out as commissioner of the NOJHL since 2011 because he flies by the seat of his over-sized pants.
But there is that notion out there — a definite thought and belief — that there will be NOJHL games being played before the end of the 2020 calendar year.
This isn’t Toronto. This isn’t Peel Region. This isn’t southwestern Ontario.
Rather, this is northeastern Ontario, where COVID-19 has been much less of a threat than it has been elsewhere in the province.
Meantime, there are teams in the NOJHL that are looking to get their players together for on ice sessions in anticipation of a coming season.
At times like this, it is what isn’t being said as opposed to what is being said that is speaking volumes — albeit in whispered tones.