The Ontario Hockey League has delayed the February start of its 2020-21 season. Players' sticks are shown during the Ice Hockey World Championships Group A match between Russia and Denmark, in Moscow, Russia, on Thursday, May 12, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Ivan Sekretarev

Ontario Hockey League pushes back start of season again because of COVID-19

Ontario Hockey League pushes back start of season again because of COVID-19

TORONTO — The Ontario Hockey League has delayed the February start of its 2020-21 season.

The OHL announced Wednesday the season will not start on Feb. 4, the date targeted earlier this year. Players were scheduled to report to their teams in early January.

The decision follows Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s decision to put the entire province into lockdown starting Saturday as cases surge during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sport Minister Lisa MacLeod said that Ontario’s lockdown orders allow for professional and high-performance athletes to train within the province but not to compete.

“At this point we do not have any further guidance from the chief medical officer of health to allow them to return to play,” said MacLeod. “That work is ongoing.

“Right now we’re focused on getting our health-care system at a capacity where it’s not overloaded. That’s our No. 1 priority.”

MacLeod said that any decision to cancel the season would be up to the OHL. She added that the Ontario government has already announced that grants will be made available to small businesses to help them through the province-wide shutdown period and that her ministry plans to announce additional funding for sports organizations in the new year.

An added complication is that the OHL has three teams — the Erie Otters, Flint Firebirds and Saginaw Spirit — based in the United States and the border remains closed to non-essential travel until at least Jan. 21.

“Just like with MLB and the NBA, those decisions on border crossings would be made by the federal government so those are key considerations (the OHL) would have to take in,” said MacLeod.

“We would look at what return-to-play would look like and what that would mean in terms of sanitation, social distancing in the arena before they get on the ice, things like that.”

The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is the only one of three Canadian major-junior hockey leagues to have started play this season. Play was suspended Dec. 1, with the league saying it hopes to return with its 12 Quebec teams playing in four markets in late January. No date has been set for the return of the QMJHL’s six teams in Atlantic Canada.

The Western Hockey League had hoped to start its season in January, but announced another delay earlier this month.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 23, 2020.

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press

hockey

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

City of Red Deer says its roundabouts have sharply reduced the number of injury collisions at a pair of busy intersections. Alberta Transportation wants to incorporate five roundabouts into plans to twin Highway 11 from Sylvan Lake to Rocky Mountain House. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Highway 11 roundabouts will increase safety based on Red Deer’s experience

Injury collisions sharply reduced at roundabout intersections in city

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
One new COVID-19 death in Red Deer, Alberta under 10,000 active cases

Alberta reported an additional 643 COVID-19 cases Friday. The province now has… Continue reading

About 110 students from Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools participated in March for Life rally in Edmonton May 9. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer high school has COVID-19 case

St. Joseph High School in Red Deer confirmed a positive COVID-19 case… Continue reading

Lacombe High School logo.
Two more COVID-19 cases at Lacombe Composite High School

Lacombe Composite High School confirmed two more positive COVID-19 cases at the… Continue reading

World Juniors’ referee Mike Langin makes a called during the Canada vs. Slovakia at the 2021 World Junior Championship at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Dec. 27, 2020. (Photo by Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada)
Former Sylvan Lake man lives his dream at World Junior Championships

Mike Langin was one the 25 Canadian officials who worked during the tournament

Former Alberta Premier Rachel Notley shakes hands with Joel Ward, former Red Deer College President and CEO, as Notley announces that the college is on the path to grant degrees. Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan says university status is not a necessary condition for offering degrees. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Future of Red Deer University increasingly uncertain

MLA’s college update says RDC more like SAIT and NAIT than a university

There are two confirmed COVID-19 cases at Red Deer College. Photo by Mamta Lulla/Advocate staff
Central Albertans were promised a university

Central Albertans were promised a university

FILE - Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron sits for a portrait after receiving his COVID-19 vaccination at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, in this Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021, file photo. Hank Aaron, who endured racist threats with stoic dignity during his pursuit of Babe Ruth but went on to break the career home run record in the pre-steroids era, died early Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. He was 86. The Atlanta Braves said Aaron died peacefully in his sleep. No cause of death was given. (AP Photo/Ron Harris, File)
Hank Aaron, baseball’s one-time home run king, dies at 86

Hank Aaron, baseball’s one-time home run king, dies at 86

Miami Heat guard Duncan Robinson (55) passes the ball around Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet (23) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 22, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Powell, Raptors regroup after blowing lead, beat Heat 101-81

Powell, Raptors regroup after blowing lead, beat Heat 101-81

Tavares scores winner on power play, Leafs beat Oilers 4-2

Tavares scores winner on power play, Leafs beat Oilers 4-2

David Shoemaker, chief executive officer of the Canadian Olympic Committee, speaks during the Olympic Partnership kick off event at the Sobey's office in Mississauga, Ont. on Monday, October 7, 2019. Shoemaker says the IOC remains committed to staging the Summer Games in Tokyo this summer.THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin
Canada’s Olympic athletes try to tune out reports six months from Games

Canada’s Olympic athletes try to tune out reports six months from Games

Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley lifts the Voyageurs Cup after beating Vancouver Whitecaps 5-2 to win the Canadian Championship Final in Toronto on Wednesday, August 15, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Forge FC-Toronto FC Canadian Championship final to be played before April 6

Forge FC-Toronto FC Canadian Championship final to be played before April 6

Canada's Penny Oleksiak reacts after her heat of the women's 50m butterfly at the World Swimming Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, Friday, July 26, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Lee Jin-man
Penny Oleksiak, Kylie Masse among six swimmers named early to Canadian Olympic team

Penny Oleksiak, Kylie Masse among six swimmers named early to Canadian Olympic team

Ontario skip Glenn Howard watches a rock as they play Newfoundland and Labrador in draw 15 action at the Tim Hortons Brier curling championship at Mile One Centre in St. John's on Thursday, March 9, 2017. Curling Canada has decided to use the national ranking system as its selection criteria for the final wild-card berths at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts and Tim Hortons Brier.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Canadian rankings to be used to determine final wild-card spots at Scotties and Brier

Canadian rankings to be used to determine final wild-card spots at Scotties and Brier

Most Read