The ongoing provincial lockdown is putting the Provincial Junior Hockey League season in doubt.
The 62-team Ontario league announced its previously planned launch date of Feb. 1, 2021, would now be postponed indefinitely due to COVID-19.
In a release, the league said its top priority remained the safety of players, fans, staff and coaches.
“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,” Terry Whiteside, the league’s commissioner, said.
Any return to the ice is still subject of government and public health approval. The league’s governing bodies – the Ontario Hockey Association, the Ontario Hockey Federation and Hockey Canada – also have to give the thumbs up before the puck can drop again again.
Any games that are played will also have to meet any guidelines established by the host team’s municipality. Most teams in the league are community run, with their largest source of revenue coming from paying fans.
The league’s board of governors previously met Nov. 25 to establish initial plans to begin a 2020-21 season. However, all 15 public health units in the teams’ regions still had to provide permission to play.
A COVID-19 response committee was created at the beginning of December to help prepare for any return to hockey in 2021.
The PJHL began in the 2016-17 season through the merger of eight different Junior C leagues in Ontario under one governing body. It stretches as far west as Essex and Lambton counties to the Niagara region and Georgian Bay area.
The 2020 playoffs ended in the eight individual division finals in mid-March because of the pandemic.
“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.”