The light at the end of the tunnel is rotating red. After 15 months of COVID-19 frustration and dashed hopes, the Windsor Spitfires (and the OHL) made the big announcement on Tuesday afternoon – the 2021-22 regular season schedule has been released!
Getting to this point has been nothing short of a rollercoaster. When the OHL cancelled the remainder of the 2019-20 season in March 2020 due to COVID-19, there was optimism that a new season would begin in September. Unfortunately, COVID-19 cases increased late last summer, forcing the league to postpone the season multiple times before cancelling it for good in late March 2021. However, with vaccines getting into arms, the league could focus on 2021-22, starting with the 2021 Priority Selection. Now, with the Province of Ontario inching closer to a full reopening, the hopes of hockey are closer than ever before.
The Spitfires’ schedule is going to be unique in a few different ways. Let’s take a look!
The Spitfires Are Back… with a Change
It’s been a long 15 months, but this week’s big news started on Monday afternoon. That’s when the Spitfires announced that their home opener will be on Thursday, Oct. 7 at 7:30 P.M., when they face the Sarnia Sting.
Just 24 hours later, on Tuesday afternoon, the OHL released their full 2021-22 regular-season schedule and the Spitfires were able to unveil theirs. In a chaotic, uncertain world, it’s a breath of fresh air.
With COVID-19 still hanging around, the league is trying to reduce travel as much as possible. This means, for this season, most teams will play no games outside of their conference (there are exceptions). The Spitfires’ annual Northern (Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, and North Bay) and Eastern (Ottawa, Kingston, and Peterborough) swings are not happening. What takes their place?
Over the Spitfires’ 68-game schedule, they will face:
- Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds – 8 times – four at home, four on the road (two pairs of two-game road trips)
- Sarnia Sting – 10 times
- Saginaw Spirit – 8 times
- Flint Firebirds – 8 times (including three home-and-homes)
- London Knights – 8 times
- Owen Sound Attack – 6 times
- Kitchener Rangers – 8 times
- Guelph Storm – 6 times
- Erie Otters – 6 times (three at home, one single road game, and one two-game trip)
As well, the club has changed the game times for Thursday nights and Sunday afternoons. Thursday night games, which have been at 7:05 P.M. since 2007-08, will now start at 7:30 P.M. Sunday afternoon games have also moved from 2:05 P.M. to 4:05 P.M.
It’s a much different look but, with mostly conference games, seeing teams that many times can only elevate the intensity. You’ll see playoff-style hockey nearly from the start.
Calendar Imbalance and Key Dates
While the schedule has been released, the league is still being cautious about how they set everything up. On top of a change in opponents, there is also a winter-heavy balance to the schedule.
The Spitfires will play 27 games (16 at home and 11 on the road) before the Christmas break, but 41 games (18 at home, 23 on the road) after it. While it creates a chaotic run to the playoffs, it also allows time for teams to adjust and for Ontario, Pennsylvania, and Michigan to get back to “normal.”
Throughout the schedule, there are also some key dates that fans will want to take note of, on top of the home opener being on Thursday, Oct. 7:
- Thanksgiving – Monday, Oct. 11 vs Knights – 2:05 P.M.
- Last home game before Christmas – Thursday, Dec. 16 vs Greyhounds – 7:30 P.M.
- New Years’ Eve – Friday, Dec. 31 vs Firebirds – 2:05 P.M.
- Four-game homestand (longest of the season) – Sunday, Feb. 6 – Friday, Feb. 18. (during a stretch of 11 of 15 games at home)
- Mickey Renaud Game – Friday, Feb. 18 vs Firebirds – 7:30 P.M.
- Last regular-season home game – Thursday, March 31 vs Sting – 7:30 P.M.
- Last regular-season game – Saturday, April 2 at Attack – 7:30 P.M.
There hasn’t been an official announcement from the league about fans being at the games. However, the Spitfires will be giving more info on tickets in the coming weeks.
The last game the Spitfires played was on March 8, 2020, in a Sunday afternoon tilt against the Kitchener Rangers. Now, after twists, turns, and vaccines, there’s hope and a firm idea for the future.
Spitfires’ fans, the wait is almost over!
I’m a resident of Windsor, ON and a graduate of St Clair College Journalism and New Media program as well as the University of Windsor Communication, Media, and Film program. I’ve been a junior hockey fan (specifically the Windsor Spitfires) for 30-years and have written about/photographed junior hockey since about 2005.