The restless hands of time are ticking towards the return of good level hockey in northern Ontario.
As Hockey News North was first to report last week, the Northern Ontario Hockey Association’s Great North Under 18 AAA League has been approved for a modified version of play by public health officials representing the various districts.
And the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League will soon make official its return to play format to begin the 2020-2021 season.
At last, it is a looming return to play — albeit in cohort form relative to the coronavirus pandemic that has shut down amateur hockey across Canada since March of this year.
As previously noted, the eight teams of the Great North will be in cohort.
For example, the Soo Jr. Greyhounds will play against the Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves, the Timmins Majors will be in tandem with the Kapuskasing Flyers and the New Liskeard Cubs will be in cohort with the North Bay Major Trappers.
And the league’s two under 16 teams, Sudbury Minor Wolves and North Bay Minor Trappers, will be in direct competition with each other.
All public health conditions will be in place when teams in the respective cohort groups play host to one another.
Rules of the modified play — such as no hitting or body checking — will officially be in place for the start of the 2020-2021 season, which is slated to begin in early December following a player evaluation period for all teams that will start on November 15.
In Sault Ste. Marie, hard driven head coach Jamie Henderson, who led the Jr. Greyhounds to a first place finish during the 2019-2020 Great North regular season with a record of 28-7-3 before play was halted at playoff time, is ready to go, regardless of the modifications.
“The game will look a little different and certainly safety precautions are necessary but ultimately our goal as a program will not change and that is to help these players get better every day and showcase themselves for the next level,” Henderson pointed out.
“I am taking as positive an approach as possible. This is not going to look like what we are used to, that is for sure. But it is a start,” Henderson added.
Up in Timmins, Brandon Perry, the 31-year old head coach of the Majors who will begin his fourth season as their bench boss, has already named returning forward Pierre Racicot as team captain for the coming season.
Racicot produced 15 goals, 13 assists, 28 points in 38 games as a hard toiling, relentless performer for Timmins during the 2019-2020 season .
With hometown lad Perry at the helm as an extremely committed coach, Timmins posted a record of 16-18-4 within the Great North loop in 2019-2020.
It was the Majors best record since way back during the 2012-2013 Great North season.
As for the league, it has confirmed that team rosters of 22 players, including two goalies, will be divided in half for games against fellow cohorts once the 2020-2021 season gets underway.
Play will continue to be five on five skaters plus goalies.
The plan is for the league to operate within this format until Christmas and at that time it will be determined if any of the modifications such as no hitting or body checking will be lifted.