Provincial Junior Hockey League delays start indefinitely
The Provincial Junior Hockey League is the latest league to delay its season because of the provincewide lockdown.
The 63-team loop — which includes the Amherstview Jets, Napanee Raiders, Gananoque Islanders, Picton Pirates, Port Hope Panthers and Campbellford Rebels in the Tod Division — was targeting a Feb. 1 start, but the regular season has been pushed back indefinitely.
“Our No. 1 concern is for the safety of our players, coaches, staff and fans,” league commissioner Terry Whiteside said in a statement in early January. “All of us want to be able to have a safe return to hockey. As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, we will be monitoring and preparing ourselves to be ready to return to the game.”
Also in early January, the Ontario Hockey League, which includes the Kingston Frontenacs, and the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League, based in southern Ontario, delayed their start dates indefinitely.
The Central Canada Hockey League, consisting of 12 junior A teams in the Ottawa region, including the Brockville Braves and Cornwall Colts, is not likely to restart after 10 of the league’s teams played five or six games against a single nearby rival in Developmental Scrimmage Action in November and December before the Christmas holiday break and ensuing lockdown. The remaining two teams played once.
The PJHL originally announced in the summer a targeted start date of Dec. 1. The start was delayed in November to Jan. 1 and then to Feb. 1.
Playing this season will require the approval of government, local health officials and hockey governing bodies, including the Ontario Hockey Association, Ontario Hockey Federation and Hockey Canada, Whiteside said.
“As the largest junior hockey league in the world, the PJHL takes its responsibility very seriously to ensure the safety of all participants and we will continue to work with our governing bodies, local health units and facilities to provide the safest environment possible,” Whiteside said.