Ontario Hockey League plans to begin play in December
LONDON, ONT. -- The Ontario Hockey League (OHL) hopes to begin its 2020-2021 season on Dec. 1.
The league released a statement Wednesday morning stating operations will resume "subject to ensuring that the players, fans, staff and community are able to play and attend games safely."
It continues, "Over the next four months the league will continue to work with government and health agencies to finalize outstanding issues such as safe attendance at venues and cross border travel for teams and players."
The season will include a 64-game schedule and a 16-team playoff format. The regular season is scheduled to end on April 29, 2021. The 102nd Memorial Cup is scheduled to be played June 17 to 27, 2021 and will the hosts will either be the Oshawa Generals or Soo Greyhounds.
“We are looking forward to getting back to playing hockey, but are committed to ensuring that we do so in a manner that is safe and healthy for our players, officials, families, billets, teams, staff, fans and the community,” OHL Commissioner David Branch said in a statement.
“Players will remain at home until the season resumes and teams will work closely with them on both their academic studies and overseeing their on and off-ice development. In addition, the league will liaise with our facilities to ensure that our venues are safe for our return to play.”
There remain many unanswered questions. Will games be played without fans? How will teams generate revenue with limited to no fans in attendance? How will the three American teams play with no cross-border travel?
The announcement was more about dates than details. Many of the logistics haven't been provided yet, and CTV News has reached out to OHL executives for answers.
London Knights Associate General Manager Rob Simpson says after a meeting with OHL brass Tuesday the landscape is currently moving. "The hope is for every team to have fans in the stands but there is just so many variables," says Simpson.
"The Ontario government and Canadian government will have a play in that. Our league is constantly talking to them to make sure it happens, but that's the hope for every team that we do have fans in the stands."
Simpson couldn't speak about other teams' financial situation, but says there are a lot of expenses to producing hockey at the OHL level. "There is players’ billeting and stick costs, as well as equipment and travel costs. There is a lot of smaller item things that add up. Ticket revenue is main one. We are not like NHL with TV deal across the country and North America so there is a lot of financial things to look at there."
Simpson added that there was no discussion during Tuesday's meeting regarding the U.S.-based teams.
The league’s return to play overview plan includes only intra-conference play, with a few close exceptions to help decrease long travel between cities.
Owen Sound Attack General Manager Dale DeGray says they are excited to have a date to move towards. "The schedule is going to look a little different this year, but I’m confident that no matter who or when our guys are playing, they’re going to be ready to go.”
Due to the reduction in regular season games from 68 to 64, the Attack will be issuing a credit to all season ticket members for the two eliminated home dates, but anyone seeking early bird pricing must still pay in full by Aug. 31.
The Sarnia Sting say they are “awaiting federal, provincial, and municipal government guidelines and procedures on how we can re-open safely. The safety and wellbeing of our fans, players, billets, staff, and community partners are our top priority."
The Sting add they are working closely with health and government officials to determine how to properly get back to business.
Meanwhile, the Ottawa 67s will launch their deposit campaign next week for season seats, flex packages and group tickets, but say the small deposit is fully refundable if fans can't attend games.