Could the Ontario Hockey League have done more to start the 2020-2021 season back in November when COVID-19 cases were relatively low?
Did the OHL do wrong to its players when continuing to insist it was “not interested in playing games without fans in attendance” like other leagues were doing?
Points can be debated all day long but it won’t change the fact that the OHL recently opted to cancel the 2020-2021 season without a single game being played.
And for two northern clubs that were poised to be division contenders — Soo Greyhounds and Sudbury Wolves — they as much or more than any other team lost a lot when the OHL called off the 2020-2021 season.
As we feel for every single player and prospect from all 20 teams who lost out on a full season of development, one can especially relate to the 19 and 20 year old players whose eligibility is either at or near the point of no return.
Players such as forward Cole MacKay and defenseman Rob Calisti of the Greyhounds who both have 2001 birth dates and thus are now potential overage players for the 2021-2022 season.
And both, by the way, were critical of how the OHL handled the 2020-2021 season that never was.
“The communication was poor,” said MacKay, who netted 25 goals, 26 assists, 51 points during the 2019-2020 campaign. “We were left in the dark. Speaking for myself, and I think my teammates would agree, we’re pretty frustrated with how everything was handled.
“In the months leading up (to the official cancellation of the 2020-2021 season), we never really knew what was going on. That was frustrating,” MacKay told Postmedia.
Calisti agreed with MacKay.
“I thought the communication between the league and players was really poor,” concurred Calisti, who produced 18 goals, 32 assists, 50 points from his blue line post in the 2019-2020 season.
“(The league’s) hands were tied due to COVID, but you were always left to wonder ‘what if? Were we close to starting when the (COVID-19) numbers were lower? What if we did start when they were lower? That could have been a possibility,” Calisti relayed to Postmedia.
Meanwhile, Sudbury Wolves general manager Rob Papineau said he trusts OHL commissioner David Branch and those in the league office.
“I truly trust the leadership and I really believe that if it had been possible to have something done sooner, it would have gotten done,” said Papineau. “I don’t have any information with regard to that dialogue but I have a lot of trust and confidence in our leadership.
“It is what it is — everybody can look back and talk about the what-ifs but at the end of the day, we are dealing with a global pandemic, we are in a province that has some very strict restrictions, no doubt about it, and those are the facts.
“We are hockey players and hockey executives and hockey coaches and all we want to do is play hockey. If there was a way to do that at any point in time, throughout this season, it would have been done,” summed up Papineau.