Players excited, executives busy after learning OHL training camps to begin in November
LONDON, ONT. -- The Ontario Hockey League (OHL) recently announced its latest target day in the return to play plan.
Training camps are scheduled to begin Nov. 15, with exhibition play set to begin five days later.
"It's great to know we are coming back finally," says Navrin Mutter, a Lucan, Ont. native who plays left wing for the Hamilton Bulldodgs.
The OHL had previously announced December 1 as the start of the regular season, with plans to play a full 64 game regular season.
"Not knowing when you are coming back it's hard to keep motivated, so that date is very helpful to get what they need to do and get ready for the season," says Mutter.
London area OHL players have been hitting the ice at Western Fair Sports Centre, with trainer Dwayne Blais of Total Package Hockey (TPH).
"We are doing skills stuff and getting ready to have scrimmages and live situational play," says Londoner Liam Van Loon, a teammate of Mutter's with the Hamilton Bulldodgs.
"The coaches here have been amazing at keeping the tempo high."
Blais has been busy keeping both junior players and NHL'ers in shape.
"We are fortunate to have a good crew of local guys here," says Blais.
"We have three different skates with OHL guys scheduled and it's awesome to have that competition so these kids can get better every time."
For the players getting ready for that November date is easy. They just have to work out and play hockey. For the executives, it's a little more difficult.
"You have to prepare your normal procedures, like the training camp roster, and the schedule," says Rob Simpson, the London Knights associate general manager.
"This year players are in school during camp, and normally we have that in August. On top of that it's about safety protocols. We have to have American and import players come in and quarantine. We will start off with bubbles and make sure we are following plans precisely that OHL and doctors have put in place."
There is also the logistics of school, and billeting players. As for whether fans will be in the stands, that's still a question mark.
"Everyone is in constant contact and to say where we will be December 1, right now is a tough thing to do," says Simpson.
"Just like main camp, bubbles and quarantine we'll take that day by day."
The players are slightly worried about losing a year due to COVID-19, but like management, are taking it day by day, and remaining optimistic that they'll be playing hockey this winter.