OHL denies return to play rumours

Like their counterparts in the Western Hockey League, the Ontario Hockey League is pumping the brakes on news of a potential return to play for their teams.

The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler tweeted on Wednesday afternoon that the OHL had sent a memo to teams earlier in the day with plans for a 24-game schedule, four hub cities and a plan to start their 2020-21 schedule over Easter weekend in April.

However, OHL commissioner David Branch said in a statement on Thursday that the league hasn’t gotten that far yet.

“We are encouraged by our ongoing discussions with government and public health agencies, but have not yet arrived at an approved Return to Play framework for the coming season,” Branch said.

“The league will share more information with our players, families, staff, billets and tremendous fans as a finalized plan for a safe return to the ice becomes available.”

WHL Return to Play

While there’s been no update on a potential East Division bubble in Regina from the Western Hockey League as of Thursday night, NDP leader Ryan Meili spoke on the possibility during a media availability on Thursday.

“We’d all like to be watching hockey again, (but) we’ve got to look at what the safety level is,” Meili said. “We’d obviously examine the details if they were available.”

Meanwhile, Minister Responsible for Tourism Saskatchewan Jeremy Harrison spoke on the support given to the provinces WHL teams, along with the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, during a virtual bear pit session as part of the Municipalities of Saskatchewan’s annual convention on Wednesday.

“We worked very closely with the SJHL and with the WHL in being able to move forward with a support package (so) that those teams and leagues were going to be able to survive,” Harrison said.

“Hopefully in the case of the WHL (they will) move forward with some play this year. They are still working on that front.”

Around the WHL

The Portland Winterhawks may have found their replacement for graduating starter Joel Hofer on Wednesday as they acquired 19-year-old netminder Brock Gould from the Moose Jaw Warriors for a conditional pick in the 2023 WHL Draft.

“We would have been carrying three goaltenders (this year), so this made a lot of sense for us to get Brock to the U.S. Division and give him the opportunity to play this season,” Warriors general manager Alan Millar said to Randy Palmer of Moose Jaw Today.

“That’s what the priority was, in the best interest of the player. Now we’ll see how the year goes and how things look when we head into next year.”

Gould, who was acquired from the Victoria Royals last January in the Brayden Tracey blockbuster, had a 7-16-3 record with a 4.29 goals against average, an .884 save percentage and a shutout during the shortened 2019-20 season.

As a result of Wednesday’s deal, former Raiders netminder Boston Bilous is expected to serve as the Warriors’ starter, while Brett Mirwald has the inside track for the backup role after spending the last two campaigns with the Saskatoon Blazers of the Saskatchewan Male Under-18 AAA Hockey League.

With Hofer making the jump to pro ranks in the St. Louis Blues system, the only Winterhawks goaltender with any WHL experience was 18-year-old Dante Giannuzzi, who has played 13 games over the last two seasons.

Meanwhile, Prince Albert product and Brandon Wheat Kings blueliner Braden Schneider recorded his first AHL point on Thursday afternoon.

The New York Rangers first round pick earned an assist on a third period goal by Tim Gettinger in the Hartford Wolf Pack’s 4-0 victory over the Providence Bruins.