Bulldog fans will have to wait until this fall at the earliest to see their home team. The OHL says it has abandoned its bid to get some kind of a Junior Hockey Season underway this spring. Earlier this month the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and the Government of Ontario reached an agreement on a Return to Play plan for the League. However, the recently extended stay at home order along with increasing cases of COVID-19 across the province make it impossible for the OHL to have a season.
“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,” said OHL Commissioner David Branch. “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.”
Things have changed quickly since a few weeks ago when the League and Province announced they had reached an agreement on the OHL Return to Play plan but on the eve of announcing any details, COVID-19 conditions worsened dramatically as new variants of concern took hold and posed a significant threat to overwhelm the health care system. The plan envisioned a shortened season to be played in hub cities following the most rigorous COVID-19 containment protocols possible. The goal was to showcase the League’s 450 players for scouts preparing for the 2021 NHL Draft, U SPORTS men’s hockey programs as well as Hockey Canada’s World Junior Summer Evaluation Camp.
In its release the league points out that the OHL’s 17 Ontario-based teams support 327 full-time jobs across its member team and League offices, along with 831 part-time jobs. Additionally, 176 students work for teams on internships or co-op terms, along with 1,100 volunteers.
In 15 of 17 Ontario communities, the OHL team is the most popular and significant sports and entertainment property. The League estimates it has a direct financial impact of over $126 million and an indirect impact of over $265 million on the Ontario economy. OHL member teams raised upwards of $4 million in support of charities across the province during the 2019-20 season.
A total of 343 OHL graduates have accessed their OHL Scholarship during the current academic year at a cost to OHL member teams of $3.15 million. In the 51-year history of the modern NHL Draft, the OHL has produced 2,410 selections, representing approximately 20% of all players chosen.