Ontario’s sport minister is optimistic the Ontario Hockey League will get approval to stage a 2021 season during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lisa MacLeod says she’s “feeling great” about the OHL’s chances of playing games.
The OHL is the only one of Canada’s three major-junior hockey leagues not to begin a 2021 season.
The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League started close to its regular October start date, but the season was suspended in late November before resuming in January. The Quebec teams are playing in hubs, while those in Atlantic Canada are playing in home arenas.
The Western Hockey League now has approval for all four divisions to play with some divisions in hubs and some in home arenas. The season started Feb. 26.
The OHL will have to figure out what to do with its three American teams — the Saginaw Spirit, Flint Firebirds and Erie Otters — with border restrictions coming into play. The WHL’s five American teams are playing exclusively against each other.
“My team is feeling very confident we’ve got the OHL to a place where they would be able to safely play with (body) contact, providing certain conditions,” MacLeod said on a videoconference Wednesday. “Asking folks just to wait over the next two to three weeks. We know there will also probably be some financial compensation so we’re looking at what that might be as well.”
MacLeod said local medical officers of health also would have to approve play.