As amateur hockey teams and leagues try to stick handle around COVID-19 and return to game activity with the blessing of public health units, there are various scenarios in consideration.
One such suggestion would have, for example, the Soo Jr. Greyhounds of the Great North Under 18 Hockey League joining the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League as a guest team.
As the NOJHL, via commissioner Rob Mazzuca, is ready to resume its COVID-19 delayed season, Great North commissioner Albert Corradini has yet to reveal return to play plans for his league’s six under-18 teams.
Which poses an interesting possibility.
With nine teams that have already seen action of more than 40 regular season games thus far, the NOJHL could solve its odd number of participants issue by adding a member from the Great North.
Thus far through two full rounds of cohort play this season, the NOJHL has had to have one team sit out during each session because it has an odd number of nine active members. Kirkland Lake Gold Miners sat out play in the first round of cohort competition and the French River Rapids did the same in the second round.
And that issue could be solved with the addition of, say, the under-18 Jr. Greyhounds as a so-called guest team.
There is precedent to such a partnership.
The Superior International Jr. Hockey League used a guest team format during play in the 2020 portion of this season.
With only five member teams active — Dryden Ice Dogs, Kam River Fighting Walleye, Red Lake Miners, Thunder Bay North Stars and Fort Frances Lakers — the SIJHL adopted three guest teams, namely the Kenora Thistles, Thunder Bay Kings under-18 and Thunder Bay Kings under-16.
Not only did that COVID-19 merger give the guest teams a league to play in, it meant that none of the five SIJHL teams would have to sit out a round of play.
Should the NOJHL and, again as an example, the under-18 Jr. Greyhounds, get the necessary permission from governing bodies to include a guest team format, it could be a win-win.
Trevor Zachary, who is the general manager of the NOJHL’s Soo Thunderbirds, said his team “would certainly be open” to playing a series of exhibition games with the under-18 Jr. Greyhounds.
“It would, for us, eliminate any idle time and at the same time, give our local under-18 team some game activity,” Zachary added.
Meanwhile, Jamie Henderson, who is the head coach of the Jr. Greyhounds, said he would be “all in for us being a guest team in the NOJHL as long as we had the blessing of those in authority.”
And the aforementioned NOJHL commissioner, Rob Mazzuca, who is known for his forward thinking and being a voice of reason, told Hockey News North that having a guest team or teams “is something that I am looking into. It is a very interesting possibility. These are very unusual times that we are in.”