OHL’s Silence About Return to Play Measures Isn’t Good Enough

It’s not very often that no one knows what is happening in a sports league, but that seems to be the case right now for the Ontario Hockey League. While other hockey leagues in Canada and across the globe are back up and running, the OHL continues to sit out with everything being kept under lock and key for some reason.

This isn’t even a matter of coming out with a concrete plan to get players back on the ice because the chances of them doing that again before they know it is going to be approved and eventually happen is slim to none. But the fact that no one knows anything right now simply isn’t good enough when the other two leagues that make up the CHL are back and have been for some time.

Start Thinking About the Players

The players in the OHL have built their lives around the game of hockey, and while the league can’t do much to make things better on the spot, there is no reason for them to be dangling the players like they are a yoyo. Numerous times, there have been plans to get back on the ice that fell through. The emotional toll that would take on a player who spends as much time as they do preparing is hardly imaginable.

Andrew Perrott Owen Sound Attack
Andrew Perrott, Owen Sound Attack (Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

The mental health of players (from SIMMONS: Concern over mental health in a lost hockey season, The Telegram, January 4th, 2021) is something that has been a focus throughout this pandemic, and the uncertainty about the immediate future could be a factor adding to that. Some players are thinking about when they will be able to return to Canada after playing overseas for the winter, and some are worried about seeing the ice for the first time in a competitive game since March of 2020.

Related: OHL Season In Limbo With New Ontario Lockdowns

All of the league’s players have their own unique situation right now, but they also have one thing in common; they know nothing about if, when, and where the OHL will play their 2020-21 season. Not knowing the details of a return-to-play plan isn’t the worst part of this, however.

What Is Happening Right Now?

Many times, the league has come out and said they are in conversation with the government of Ontario about what a 2020-21 season could look like, but other than some information coming from people outside of the league, nothing has been heard. Players and fans alike don’t need to know every single detail of what is going on behind closed doors, but some stuff would be nice.

With the new lockdowns in Ontario, have negotiations changed at all? What happened to Lisa MacLeod’s confidence (from ‘CONFIDENT:’ Lisa MacLeod gives Ottawa 67’s new hope that games will be played this season, Ottawa Sun, March 10th, 2021) that the OHL would have an announcement about how they plan to get back on the ice by the end of March? What is the plan with the additional money that could be coming the OHL’s way, as alluded to by MacLeod when the league was given $2.35 million for scholarships? Is the league even negotiating with the government right now?

Mitch Marner Christian Dvorak David Branch
Co-Captains Mitch Marner and Christian Dvorak of the London Knights are presented the Memorial Cup by President of the CHL and OHL Commissioner David Branch at the 2016 MasterCard Memorial Cup. (Terry Wilson/CHL Images)

There are so many questions that can and should be answered by the league. It’s hard to understand why the negotiations need to be such a secret. Of course, not everything can be said publicly right now. But if the league were to come out and say, hey, we’re still talking to the government and lockdowns have caused some problems, and it’s taking a little longer than we expected, most people would be satisfied knowing something.

Related: OHL Season Remains Uncertain Despite QMJHL, WHL Games

Alternatively, you have the situation you are in right now. People lobbying for the government to let them back on the ice with movements like #PlayersNotPlaying being done by @OHLInsiders on Twitter and players coming out and practically begging to get back on the ice. It’s a black eye for the league and makes them look like the bad guy.

Just Come Out and Say It

With tensions ever-increasing from players and fans, the time is now for the OHL to just come forward and tell us something. Good news or bad news, everyone needs to know if they are still hoping to have a season. With the QMJHL and the WHL already on the ice, and other Canadian leagues having previously hosted seasons (Canadian Premier League and the Canadian Elite Basketball League), there is little reason the OHL should be so far behind.

It is becoming ridiculous that the league continues to point to them being in conversation with the government. Fans can deal with what is happening right now (while it will make some angry and could lose them customers in the long run), the players can’t keep playing this game. Their future is on the line, and it’s high time the OHL stops messing around like these kids don’t matter.

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