GOJHL to begin play in January
The Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League has moved its start date back for the 2020/21 regular season to Jan. 15, 2021.
The GOJHL, which had hoped to begin Dec.15, has received approval from the Ontario Hockey Federation to proceed with five-on-five modified playing rules, dependent on regional public health approval.
Over the past four months, the GOJHL has worked with government officials, public health units and arena facilities to ensure a safe return to play for players, staff, officials, volunteers and fans attending games.
“We are grateful and excited to have received this confirmation from the OHF as we work towards getting our players back on the ice. Along with our goal of providing the best junior hockey experience in Ontario, our league is committed to ensuring a safe return to play for everyone involved,” GOJHL commissioner Mark Tuck said in a press release. “The GOJHL would like to thank all facilities and public health units for their cooperation and dedication towards understanding the needs of our GOJHL teams as we organize our return to play.”
Official game schedules will be released pending the ever-changing scenarios evolving around the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Teams will compete involving separate cohort brackets within their conferences based on a structure that will see clubs only play against one other team during the set time frame. Teams will play in a three-week cycle and will take a 14-day isolation break to exchange cohorts.
The approved five-on-five game play regulations include most traditional aspects of game play. From an enhanced player safety perspective, the approved five-on-fiver egulations include:
• Absolutely no deliberate body checking permitted.
• Intentional physical contact is not permitted.
• Elimination of post-whistle scrums or altercations.
• Enforcement of all players wearing an approved “bubble” face mask and facial covering.
• Teams will follow GOJHL dressing room protocol and E-Waivers tracing.
• Number of players able to participate in a game per team will vary depending on the facility structure and public health unit.
The regular season, dependent on variable COVID-19 guidelines and regulations, is scheduled to conclude at the end of March 2021, with the 87th Sutherland Cup being awarded no later than June 2021.
For now, it’s status quo for the five Golden Horseshoe teams in Niagara — St. Catharines, Thorold, Fort Erie, Niagara Falls and Pelham.
The Panthers will continue to play the Blackhawks in pre-season, non-contact scrimmages while the Meteors and Canucks will do the same.
That leaves the St. Catharines Falcons without an opponent.
“There’s not a whole lot we can do,” Falcons general manager Frank Girhiny said. “We’ll continue practising. We may find some other things to do. We’ll do some skill development and bring some skills coaches in but we can’t play.
“We have teams five kilometres away and we can’t play. I’m disappointed because I have four teams playing next to me and we’re not.”
The Falcons had been playing the Canucks but were forced into a 14-day quarantine when multiple members of the team tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. The Panthers and Meteors had been playing each other with the Blackhawks on the sidelines to start the scrimmages.
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