NOJHL working on return

Randy Russon
February 22, 2021
Blind River Beavers and Soo Thunderbirds are under the Algoma Public Health unit umbrella. (photo by Bob Davies)

Sources are telling Hockey News North that the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League will return to play this week.

And the same sources are saying that teams will be restricted to playing within their own public health units, at least to begin.

In the case of the five-member West Division of the NOJHL, there is an odd number of teams. That is, unless a guest team from the Great North Under 18 Hockey League is allowed in.

Looking at the West Division, two teams fall into the jurisdiction of Algoma Public Health — Blind River Beavers and Soo Thunderbirds. The other three teams are under the umbrella of Sudbury and Districts Public Health — Espanola Express, French River Rapids and Rayside Balfour Canadians.

Algoma Public Health is currently in the yellow zone category, relative to COVID-19, while Sudbury and Districts Public Health is in a more restrictive orange zone.

At any rate, should teams be restricted to playing within their own health unit, it would be Blind River in cohort with the Soo.

And Espanola, French River and Rayside Balfour would be in a three team group with one of them having to sit each round of cohort play. Which is where the Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves of the Great North Under 18 Hockey League could potentially come into play as a guest team — and thus prevent Espanola, French River or Rayside Balfour from having to sit a round of play as an odd team out.

The NOJHL has reportedly broached the idea of having the under 18 Nickel Capital Wolves as a guest team with the governing Northern Ontario Hockey Association.

Meanwhile, with strict adherence to guidelines to league and public health guidelines, the NOJHL managed to play 41 of the 44 games that were scheduled between Nov. 13 and Dec. 22 of 2020.

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 v. Espanola, Blind River v. the Soo, Rayside Balfour 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 even-numbered 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 five matches.

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