While many leagues around North America had shortened regular seasons or just played exhibition games during the 2020-21 campaign, the Ontario Hockey League was left standing on the sidelines.
The OHL announced on Tuesday that they were ending their return to play plans as a result of the extended stay at home order in Ontario and the rise of COVID-19 cases in the province.
“We have worked tirelessly with the Province and the Chief Medical Officer of Health for the past year on different scenarios and different windows of opportunity but the reality is the conditions in Ontario have never been right to start and complete an uninterrupted, safe opportunity for players to showcase their skills,” OHL commissioner David Branch said in a prepared statement.
“We owe it to our players and their families to be definitive. We were committed to return and play this season, but our hopes and desires have been dashed by the cruel realities of COVID-19.”
The OHL said that they had reached an agreement with the province on a Return to Play plan a few weeks ago with the teams playing in hub cities, which had yet to be finalized, but the increase in variants of concern in Ontario put a halt to those plans.
“Ontario has the strongest health restrictions of any jurisdiction in North America and we understood that this would make a return to play scenario extremely difficult,” Branch added.
“The openness the Premier (Doug Ford), Minister (of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture) Lisa MacLeod, the Office of the Chief Medical Officer (Dr. David Williams) and key staff have afforded us has not gone unnoticed and is greatly appreciated. We all agree that providing certainty for our players and families, even if it is not the answer they would want to hear, is the right thing for everyone’s health and safety and for the mental health challenges faced by many of our young players.”
While the OHL didn’t have any games this year, their counterparts in the Canadian Hockey League were able to play.
The Western Hockey League is in the middle of a 24-game slate for all four of their divisions, but will not have a post-season.
Meanwhile, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League wrapped their regular season over the weekend and started their playoffs on Tuesday.