We are about a month and a half away from the proposed start of training camps in the OHL for the 2021-22 season. Assuming all goes according to plan, camps are expected to open around U.S. Labor Day in September.
There were going to be a lot of questions surrounding a return to play and what that would entail. We are starting to get a small glimpse into what this could look like.
Multiple sources confirmed to the Hockey Writers this weekend that the OHL is set to enforce a rule that will mandate everybody within the league (players, coaches, staff, volunteers, officials, billet families etc.) to be fully vaccinated at least two weeks prior to the start of training camps. For new players or staff giving services to the league, they must provide evidence of full vaccination within two weeks of the date that they are to begin providing services to the league.
Immediate Impact of This News
It appears the OHL is making a strong statement with this new policy for the 2021-22 season. At the forefront of this decision appears to be the health and safety of everyone that’s involved with the league.
Because there are an abundance of closed-space environments present, the league wants to reduce the risk of exposure and transmission to Covid-19 while trying to play a regular league year.
While many are welcoming this news with open arms, not everyone is happy with it. Those that are specifically against the vaccine for one reason or another as well as those that have medical conditions where the vaccine could cause an issue are concerned with this proposed rule.
It is our understanding that accommodations are available up to a specific point and that a player or staff can request one. However if a situation gets beyond a certain point, the OHL could step in and take extra action.
Per those same sources, in the event of a player, the OHL could remove them from the roster for the duration of the pandemic. If it’s a staff member, the OHL could put them on leave through the duration of the pandemic. If it is a volunteer, they will be required to stop all activities involving the OHL.
It will be interesting to see how this all unfolds especially for the unvaccinated. They might have to choose between staying unvaccinated but then not play hockey in the OHL or they get the vaccine if they want to play. For some, this could be a career-altering decision.
Other Potential Impacts
It is less clear what this proposed policy will mean for fans going to games or if other leagues will take a similar approach to the vaccine.
For fans, what will be the requirements in order to go to a game? Will there be masks involved? Will arenas be limited in capacity? We should get details on these as we get closer to the season.
As for other leagues, a source indicated that a decision on what the NHL and AHL might do should be made “shortly.” With seasons set to start up again within three months, decisions will have to be made to see if they will mandate vaccines or if they’ll be more lenient.
With the OHL losing its season completely, they are in a position where they will do anything it takes to ensure a full season is completed while ensuring the health and safety of those involved. But stay tuned on this developing story. Not everyone is happy with the decision and it could lead to some players or staff being done with the OHL completely. We’ll also see if the full guidelines are made public at some point in the future.
Mandated vaccines in the OHL. It appears here to stay for the upcoming season.
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I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2022-23 season will mark nine seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager. Please take note of the updated Twitter handle: @mark_scheig.