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Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic[edit | edit source]

Return of Hockey in Canada[edit | edit source]

On June 4th Hockey Canada released the following statement:

“On March 12, the decision was made to cancel all Hockey Canada-sanctioned activities across the country. This was a difficult decision, but one made to maintain the health and safety of all participants and the general public amid growing concerns around the corona virus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Currently there are no Hockey Canada-sanctioned activities being conducted, and we are working with our Members on their return-to-hockey plans. After ongoing discussions with the board of directors, our chief medical officer, the 13 Members and public health authorities across the country, it has been determined that the best approach for a return to hockey in Canada is to allow each Member the opportunity to work with authorities in their respective regions to determine when it is safe to return to the ice in areas that fall under their jurisdiction. We expect the timing of each Member’s return to hockey will be different, but will be based on the advice of their government and public health authority.

It is imperative to note that we are not ready to return to the game across the country. As we have seen in respect to flattening the curve, the impact of the pandemic varies from region to region. Permitting our Members the opportunity to decide on an appropriate return-to-hockey timeline will allow them to work directly with public health authorities to determine when it is safe to return while also implementing specific safety measures and rules within their associations and leagues.

Hockey Canada knows the game will look quite different, and the return will happen at different speeds and at different times across the country. Be assured, we continue to work on our multi-faceted return-to-hockey plan that includes health and safety regulations, communications and seasonal structure. As with so many people across the country, we look forward to returning to the game when it is safe to do so, and we will support our 13 Members as we continue to work towards getting back on the ice.”[1]

Status Across Canada[edit | edit source]

Hockey across North America was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic in mid-March of 2020. Some restrictions had started to be lifted as the pandemic had a decrease in the number of cases in late May and early June. Different regions were hit more severely that others.

Ontario and Quebec with the two largest populations in Canada have been the hardest hit with the virus. Restrictions on social gathering is likely be the main factor in terms leagues starting play.

The hardest hit areas of the province of Ontario are the Golden Horseshoe/Greater Toronto region and Essex County (greater Windsor area) with the Waterloo region (approximately 1,325 cases) and Ottawa (approximately 2,100 cases) regions hit but nowhere near as hard. Ontario has a limit of 10 in gatherings dating back to June 12th. The province had 1,442 active cases as of July 14th.[2] The Ontario Hockey Federation put out guidelines that make it likely traditional 5-on-5 full contact hockey won't start in leagues under its' jurisdiction until December or January at the earliest.[3] The restrictions in place as of late September would put the larger metropolitan areas such as Ottawa and Toronto (along with the rest of the Golden Horseshoe region) facing the likelihood of no ice hockey in these regions. As this is a government decision and not a Hockey Canada decision this would also affect the Greater Metro Junior A Hockey League and the Canadian Premier Junior Hockey League as well not just the Major Junior , Junior A, B and C leagues. With the affects of the pandemic being less in remote areas of Ontario the Superior International Junior Hockey League and Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League may possibly be able to begin play in December or January.

Quebec had a limit of 50 in a public location in place. The extreme southwestern corner (Montreal and Laval plus the Lanaudière, Laurentides, and Montérégie regions) of the province is the worst hit accounting for nearly 90% of all cases (over 50,000 cases) in the province where the greater Quebec City area has had less than 2,400 cases. The Outaouais region which includes the Quebec portion of the National Capital region including Gatineau was under 700 cases. As of July 14th the province had over 25,000 active cases accounting for over 90% of Canada's active cases. [4] New restrictions were announced that would lower that limit to 10 people at indoor events and 25 at outdoor events were announced in late September indicating that play in the province won't happen anytime soon.[5]

The Atlantic provinces, the Territories, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan have less than 100 active cases combined as of mid-July and are possibly in circumstances where larger social gatherings could be possible with precautions taken such as social distancing and the use of masks in a normal time frame for starting the 2020-21 season but several leagues have indicated a reduced schedule would be a distinct possibility in many leagues especially if enough public attendance at the events is allowed with lower allowed attendance levels (25-50% capacity) being allowed to make play financially feasible Many teams subsidize their income with hockey camps and based on restrictions in place these camps would not be allowed to be held this off-season making a less than good financial season a likely outcome.

On June 8, 2020 U Sports[6] along with Atlantic University Sport[7], Canada West Universities Athletic Association[8], and Ontario University Athletics[9] all announced that the fall semester athletic competitions were cancelled indicating that ice hockey and other winter sports will not start until January of 2021 and that the situation will be reviewed in a timely manner. Canada West's release set a deadline of October 8th for a decision whether to begin play in January.

On May 8, 2020 the Elliot Lake Wildcats of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League announced they were taking a leave of absence due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.[10] The Assiniboia Southern Rebels of the Prairie Junior Hockey League announced on June 14 citing the unknown involving the COVID-19 pandemic requested and received a one-year leave of absence.[11] Around the Canada Day holiday the High River Flyers and Medicine Hat Cubs both of the Heritage Junior Hockey League both announced they were sitting out the 2020-21 season citing fundraising and ticket sale issues as the main reasons.[12]

British Columbia is being particularly restrictive with the lifting of social gathering limitations which will have an effect on leagues playing within its border, the limit is presently gatherings of 50 or more. The Western Hockey League, British Columbia Hockey League, and Kootenay International Junior Hockey League all have teams based out of the United States and will be affected by the border closure which is unlikely to be lifted anytime soon. The National Hockey League has also been told that they will not receive any special treatment within the province. The WHL has stated anything under allowing 50% of capacity would not make it financially feasible to begin play while the BCHL and KIJHL have indicated a 25% of capacity limit would be their thresholds for financial feasbility.[13] On July 17th the BCHL would announce that they were planning on starting play on December 1st pending approval of the Provincial Health Office.[14]

Alberta has about 700 cases as of mid-July and with its population being about three and a half times the population of the next largest province and could possibly start close to or on-time with the 2020-21 season.[15]

Junior hockey teams make money is several different ways: summer tryout camps (which were cancelled across the board), sponsorships (the outbreak has slowed the economy in levels not seen since the Great Depression), player registration fees (not used in all leagues but a major financial stabilizer for some teams), attendance at games (with limits of less than 50% looking to be the most likely case), and fundraising (50/50 raffles, Chase the Ace, game worn jersey raffles, etc.). With the traditional revenue streams appearing to be not as profitable this year some teams and leagues may have to start to rely on player fees such as those used in the lower levels of hockey in Canada and the US or getting more creative with reducing expenditures such as larger leagues playing only teams in their division to reduce travel expenditures.

Major Junior is looking to be the hardest hit of the junior levels as of the 60 teams 48 are in areas with restriction or have restrictions on getting to where other teams are based (9 are based in the US, 5 in Alberta, 5 in British Columbia, 12 in Quebec, 17 in Ontario). The QMJHL released a schedule where the 18 teams would only play games within their own divisions as a way to reduce expenses and reduce the risk of spreading the virus as Quebec has been heavily hit and Atlantic Canada has had very few active cases as of late summer.

Around September 10th the Saskatchewan Health Authority issued a statement stating that

Tournaments, out-of-province travel, and games of any kind are not sanctioned by the SHA at this time. This applies to minor, junior, and senior hockey.[16]

With Saskatchewan being the least affected by the pandemic of the Western Provinces it could potentially force some other provinces to delay play across the board at all levels.


On October 7, 2020 the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League suspended the activities of the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (one report indicated that 18 players tested positive[17]) and the Sherbrooke Phoenix due to each team having players testing positive for COVID-19. The league was also forced by the provincial government to cancel games involving the Québec Remparts as Quebec City was designated as a "red zone" for the number of cases in the region.[18] By October 14th the league decided to cancel the games played by the 12 Quebec based teams for at least two weeks as well as the Moncton Wildcats as play in the Moncton area is not being allowed by government officials. Six of the teams in Quebec are unable to operate in their home areas due to the number of cases in their areas. With those restrictions only 5 of 18 teams are actually able to play games as Nova Scotia and PEI have had relatively few cases within the "Atlantic Bubble" and Saint John and Bathurst have also had relatively few cases.

On November 12th, the Manitoba Junior Hockey League announced the league was suspending play until at least the end of 2020 due to the province going on a heightened state of alert as well as teams allegedly violating the league's return to play protocol.[19]

On November 25th the Alberta Junior Hockey League put their season on pause until the Board of Governors meet on December 19th and provide new protocols on how the season will advance as the province banned indoor sports in the province until further notice.[20]

On November 30th the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League announced the league would be suspending play until at least January 3rd due to the spike in the number of COVID-19 cases across the league's footprint.[21]

On December 2nd the province banned all adult indoor team sports due to a large spike in the number of cases in the province. The order came after a men's old timers team from the interior region had gone to Alberta, which was already in defiance of the provincial health order. The order also pushed youth sports to a more restrictive level including no spectators and other restrictions on game play an practices.[22]

Canadian-American Border closure impact[edit | edit source]

Several leagues may also have issues with some teams not being able to compete as the border between Canada and the United States being closed until August 21st at the earliest (closure is being extended on a month-by-month basis). Several American hotbeds of ice hockey had also been hit hard early with cases of the COVID-19 virus such as Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, and Washington. Eight leagues between the Major-Junior, Junior A, and Junior B have teams that are based in those states. Availability of American players to Canadian teams may be limited due to restrictions in local and provincial travel despite several of the states making steady progress is slowing the spread of the virus. Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Wisconsin also have teams playing at the Major Junior and Junior A levels. A large spike in cases (with higher daily new case numbers than in the original surge in March, April, and May) in the US beginning in late June has made the likelihood of the border opening before a vaccine is available very doubtful. Many of the states that were hit hard earlier in the pandemic have had precautions in place and are likely to be very slow at removing restrictions.

The travel of Canadian players to play on American collegiate teams is also very uncertain as of late June is also very much in doubt due to the border closure and the possibility of NCAA and ACHA teams not playing until January at the earliest.

On July 19th the Junior Hockey News website reported that since the Hockey Canada registry opened for the 2020-21 playing season on June 1st that a total of 23 American players had registered. All of them were dual Canadian-American citizens.[23]

On July 4th Hockey Canada cancelled the 2020 World U-17 Hockey Challenge citing the pandemic.[24]

On July 28th the Superior International Junior Hockey League announced a tentative November 14th starting date.[25] Some sources indicate the league's two US-based teams, the Thief River Falls Norskies and the Wisconsin Lumberjacks may end up taking the season off due to border crossing issues.[26]

Major League Baseball's Toronto Blue Jays were denied a waiver giving them the ability to host games at Rogers Centre for the abbreviated 2020 season. The plans included bringing teams into Toronto Pearson Airport and being bused directly to the Toronto Marriott City Centre Hotel and remaining isolated from the public. With a decision on this magnitude American based junior teams are likely to have to find a temporary location in Canada to play in (if that option is even allowed by government officials in Canada), sit out the season entirely, or try playing in other leagues for the season. However the eight Major Junior teams have many Canadian players on their rosters and would likely be unable to play in the US this year unless players could change teams so they could play in their home countries.

On November 2nd, the Superior International Junior Hockey League announced that the two US-based teams, the Thief River Falls Norskies and the Wisconsin Lumberjacks will not participate in the 2020-21 season due to the border closure.[27]

Leagues[edit | edit source]

Major Junior[edit | edit source]

  • 2020-21 OHL season Flag of OntarioFlag of MichiganFlag of Pennsylvania (planned a December 1 start date, later moved to February 4th)
  • 2020-21 QMJHL season Flag of QuebecFlag of New BrunswickFlag of Prince Edward IslandFlag of Nova Scotia (October 1 start date with intra-divisional play only, league play suspended November 30th until at least January 3rd)
  • 2020-21 WHL season Flag of British ColumbiaFlag of AlbertaFlag of SaskatchewanFlag of Manitoba Flag of Washington (U.S. state) Flag of Oregon (planning a January 8th start with strictly an intra-divisional schedule)

Junior A[edit | edit source]

The Canadian Junior Hockey League announced that an effort to focus on development of players has resulted in the CJHL reducing the number of 20-year olds playing in the leagues. Starting with 2018-19 the number of 20-year olds will be reduced by one with the maximum allowed being six by the start of the 2020-21 season. The teams can sign additional 20-year olds as affiliate players but the teams can not have the number of 20-year olds exceed the total number allowable for the season.[28]

The teams are allowed 6 Americans on the roster but with border restrictions the presence of American players is unlikely and will result in more players that would have been first line players on Junior B rosters ending up on Junior A teams.[29]

Junior B[edit | edit source]

The Central Canada Hockey League Tier 2 reverts to its' previous name of Eastern Ontario Junior Hockey League. The Laurentides-Lanaudiere Junior AA Hockey League is renamed Rive-Nord Junior AA Hockey League.

Junior C[edit | edit source]

Junior D[edit | edit source]

Other Junior[edit | edit source]

Independent[edit | edit source]

AAU/United Hockey Union[edit | edit source]

Championships[edit | edit source]

On June 1, 2020 as a result of the cancellation of all national championships under Hockey Canada's jurisdiction in the spring of 2020 a reshuffling of host cities was announced for many events with many of the 2020 host cities being re-awarded events for 2021, 2022, or 2023. Portage La Prairie, Manitoba is tentatively scheduled to host the 2023 Centennial Cup. No word on when or if Kelowna, British Columbia will be re-awarded a future Memorial Cup as the only listed future host is for the 2021 tournament on the Hockey Canada national championships website. [30]

National[edit | edit source]

Regional[edit | edit source]

Provincial[edit | edit source]

The Baldy Northcott Trophy (Manitoba Junior B championship) is traditionally contested for when there is more than one Junior B league in the province. But it was not awarded for 2019 or 2020 as the two leagues involved had split and it was far from amicable and legal issues remain to be resolved.

See Also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. http://nsjhl.ca/news.php?news_id=1881870
  2. https://covid-19.ontario.ca/
  3. https://thejuniorhockeynews.com/no-competitive-hockey-in-ontario-canada-until-a-vaccine/
  4. https://www.quebec.ca/en/health/health-issues/a-z/2019-coronavirus/travelling-region-to-another-covid19/
  5. https://thejuniorhockeynews.com/covid-restrictions-increase-in-ontario-and-quebec/
  6. https://usports.ca/en/news/2020/06/4079288233/u-sports-cancels-2020-fall-championships-due-to-covid-19
  7. https://www.atlanticuniversitysport.com/genrel/AUS_COVID-19_impacts_update_June_2020
  8. https://canadawest.org/news/2020/6/8/cross-country-canada-west-cancels-2020-21-first-term-team-competitions.aspx
  9. https://oua.ca/general/2019-20/releases/x-9gciq
  10. https://elliotlakewildcats.ca/wildcats-take-leave-of-absence-for-2020-21-season?fbclid=IwAR1pS1i2Yddv0vCmcUouueFMTwhJ2hsgd6miBWR_y0qiKY-BCb55NcPGpvY
  11. https://discovermoosejaw.com/local-sports/assiniboia-southern-rebels-taking-one-year-leave-of-absence
  12. https://thejuniorhockeynews.com/two-more-canadian-teams-go-dark/
  13. https://thejuniorhockeynews.com/bchl-kijhl-whl-update/
  14. https://bchl.ca/bchl-announces-tentative-dec-1-start-date
  15. https://thejuniorhockeynews.com/ajhl-sjhl-mjhl-update/
  16. https://thejuniorhockeynews.com/saskatchewan-health-authority-says-no-to-hockey/
  17. https://thejuniorhockeynews.com/18-players-test-positive-for-covid-19-in-qmjhls-blainville-boisbriand/
  18. https://theqmjhl.ca/article/qmjhl-announces-scheduling-changes
  19. https://thejuniorhockeynews.com/manitoba-junior-league-stops-play-until-2021/
  20. http://ajhl.ca/media-centre/news-archives.html?rYear=2020&nID=17915&nT=league
  21. https://www.oursportscentral.com/services/releases/qmjhl-suspends-activities-until-january-3rd/n-5654413
  22. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/bc-adult-sports-ban-1.5826300
  23. https://thejuniorhockeynews.com/how-many-american-players-have-transferred-to-canada-during-border-closure/
  24. https://thejuniorhockeynews.com/hockey-canada-cancels-world-u-17-challenge/
  25. https://sijhlhockey.com/sijhl-announces-tentative-nov-14-start-date/
  26. https://thejuniorhockeynews.com/sijhl-targets-november-14-start-date/
  27. https://thejuniorhockeynews.com/sijhl-american-teams-wont-play-season-start-delayed/
  28. https://thejuniorhockeynews.com/cjhl-to-implement-reduction-of-20-year-olds-commencing-with-upcoming-2018-19-season/
  29. https://thejuniorhockeynews.com/sjhl-commissioner-speaks-on-next-season-mjhl-return-to-play-plan-released/
  30. https://www.newsoptimist.ca/sports/local-sports/centennial-cup-to-be-in-penticton-in-2021-esso-cup-in-p-a-1.24144739
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