By Doug Kennedy
In my opinion, Lisa MacLeod was out of line with her announcement about the Ontario Hockey League last week. She is the Minister of Heritage, Sport and Tourism.
In her statement, she said the OHL had to play no body-contact if they wanted to play hockey this year. She also said she does not like the plan the OHL submitted to the Ontario Government. It is no surprise to me the OHL made no comment. MacLeod says the OHL would rather not have a bubble season with no fans.
Usually when two groups are negotiating something behind closed doors, they come out with a joint statement. This probably caused OHL teams a lot of headaches, answering questions about the unknown we face.
The Quebec major junior hockey league started a few weeks ago and is already in trouble with COVID-19. Every player that plays a season in the Quebec league gets one year of post-secondary school paid for. There are lots of anxious players and owners across Canada. The league is the top feeder in the world to the NHL. The Quebec league has asked for financial assistance from the government. The OHL has not.
I have a good feeling the OHL will figure out what is best for everyone. The government will have to decide when professional hockey can start and will there be fans. The OHF has suggested all junior hockey, below major junior in Ontario, play three-on-three or four-on-four in a bubble. Minor hockey is being asked the same thing.
Dale DeGray, the manager of the Owen Sound Attack, says if they have to play no body-contact to play, then let’s get started. Anyone who has ever been to a Team Canada women’s hockey game knows that no body-contact hockey is still a physical game.
I am not sure if any hockey games like we know them are going to get played this winter. There are leagues across Canada already playing games in a bubble. My problem with MacLeod’s announcement is this should have been a joint statement. She says there will be money to help provincial sports organizations.
Let’s hope that happens.
It seems the COVID-19 break did not affect the best teams in professional sports. Tampa Bay has been a strong team for years in the NHL. In baseball, the Tampa Bay Rays, Houston Astros, Atlanta Braves and L.A. Dodgers have been strong teams the last few seasons. The L.A. Lakers look like a lock to win a title in the NBA. It is always nice to see different teams in the playoffs in all sports.
The toughest thing about COVID-19 in sports is that many young Canadian athletes will miss opportunities to further their career because of missed seasons. This includes young men who play college football with hopes of securing a position in the CFL, or even as one of the lucky few chosen to play in the NFL. We have more Canadians playing in the NBA and MLB every year, as well as in pro hockey in North America and Europe. COVID will put a lot of dreams on hold.