The Ontario Hockey League is expected to officially shut down its season Tuesday, stating the current COVID-19 situation in the province "make it impossible for the OHL to have a season."
The league, which is yet to play a game this season, said in a statement it did reach an agreement on a Return to Play plan in the Government of Ontario earlier this month.
“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,” OHL Commissioner David Branch said. “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.
According to the league, the agreed upon plan envisioned a shortened season to be played in hub cities following "the most rigorous COVID-19 containment protocols possible."
“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.”
Ontario's minister of sport Lisa MacLeod said last Thursday it would be "irresponsible" to approve a return to play for the OHL at the moment.
"We're starting to see some outbreaks in other leagues, outbreaks even in the NHL, and so we just really need to be very mindful of these young athletes and their long-term health," said MacLeod.
The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Western Hockey League held shortened seasons this year, with the WHL announcing the cancellation of their playoffs on Monday. The Canadian Hockey League cancelled the Memorial Cup for the second straight season last week.