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.”
Just a few short weeks ago, the League and Province 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.
“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,” added Commissioner Branch. “The openness the Premier, Minister Lisa MacLeod, the Office of the Chief Medical Officer 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.”
- 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 economic and community development of the OHL cannot be overstated. The League 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.
- The OHL remains the number one provider of talent to the National Hockey League. In the 51-year history of the modern NHL Draft, the OHL has produced a remarkable 2,410 selections, representing approximately 20% of all players chosen. Since 2013, the OHL has produced more first and second round picks, more forwards and more defencemen than any other league in the world while producing the second-highest number of goaltenders.