The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League hit a major snag right after our last column. The rising cases of COVID-19 have resulted in a major hurdle in Quebec. In Canada, they are using colors instead of phases to open certain parts of the areas to sport and recreation. From Green, Yellow, Orange and Red, the color changes reflect an ability to do business. Quebec hit a stop with a Red Zone in the entire province. What this has done is effectively shut all games down and the period is usually at least three to four weeks before the situation is reassessed and decided if the zone can be lowered. As a result, all eight teams in Quebec have effectively been halted.
The QMJHL released this statement on their website:
QMJHL games postponed for teams in Red Zones
Longueuil, QC – Following a constructive meeting with Public Health Officials held earlier today, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League announces the postponement of games for teams located in red zones until further notice. All games planned for this weekend will be rescheduled. The rest of the regular season schedule will be re-evaluated next week.
However, Quebec Public Health Officials have shown an openness to a potential bubble project for teams located in red zones. The League will be exploring different scenarios with Public Health Officials in the upcoming days and work towards possible solutions so that these teams can resume play as soon as possible.
The press release was put on the site late Friday after our column was posted, so the discussions will look to be in the next day or so.
Only the Maritime games have been spared and one, Moncton Wildcats, based in the Province of New Brunswick, has just been allowed contact games by the Provincial Government. It should be noted that only the Quebec teams received funding from the Government of Quebec to the tune of about $12 million dollars. Having no fans in attendance means that the government assistance will see those teams about the same as if fans were there. The Maritimes poses a different story. Unlike Quebec, they didn’t get financial help, but are allowed a fan base of up to 25%, so their numbers of what the team will make this season appear to be relatively flush. Right now, those games appear to be spared, but interplay in Quebec with Maritimes seems to be off and this is where the schedule is going to be worked on this week if it can be salvaged.
In Ontario, things have gotten even worse. Coupled with Red Zones in heavily populated OHL teams cities, the Ontario government has stated that if the OHL plans to run February 4, it will do so without bodychecking. Lisa MacLeod who is the Minister of Sport, stated that this would be the protocol. Dave Ford, who is the Premier of Ontario is looking to see if this can be changed through a tweet.
In a post by NBC.com, the following was reported:
TORONTO (AP) — Ontario Premier Doug Ford is leaving the door open for bodychecking to remain in the Ontario Hockey League for the upcoming season.
Ford tweeted Saturday night that he is working on a return-to-play plan with the OHL that would involve physical contact. He acknowledged that the plan would need to be approved by health experts.
Ford commented a day after Ontario’s minister of sport, Lisa MacLeod, said bodychecking would not be allowed during the COVID-19 pandemic in a speech delivered to the Empire Club of Canada.
The minister says the decision to ban bodychecking came after outbreaks in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, which led to games being postponed and rescheduled.
Ford says he would like the OHL to return with rules as close to normal as possible.
The QMJHL is the lone league of the three major junior leagues in action. However, eight of the 18 teams aren’t allowed on the ice currently because of Quebec government restrictions.”
The WHL would like to start a season January 8, but with all of the other issues surrounding the other CHL teams and still uncertainty with regards to the Canadian border with the US, no one is sure whether this is still possible,
People are suggesting there is a great deal of time from now to the potential start of a season, but many hoops like players arrivals, what protocols will be followed and the big issue of generating revenue to keep afloat still remain and those take up valuable amounts of time.
Currently, there are a great deal of decisions to be made and this continues to be a very fluid situation.
Ice Chips: The Portland Winterhawks Booster Club made a very tough decision in canceling the East Swing. With the WHL now announcing the US Division vs itself, there would be no “swing” That said, once the pandemic is under better control, the idea of doing a swing would be considered.