Eastern Ontario Hockey League wants its players back on the ice

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Central Canadian Hockey League (CCHL) officials say being left out of Ontario’s fast-track return-to-play plan is hurting its players.

Last week, Ontario announced it would accelerate its return-to-play plan for professional and elite amateur leagues as it eases restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, provided the leagues follow suit. provincial guidelines.

The plan applies to 18 leagues in six sports, including the Canadian Football League, the Ontario Hockey League, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer and the National Basketball Association.

In a statement, the province said the fast-track plan precedes broader return-to-play guidelines for amateur and recreational sports, which will be allowed to “gradually resume throughout the summer.”

However, officials from the CCHL, the junior hockey league that operates in eastern Ontario, said the decision to exclude them from the fast-track plan – and thus prevent them from holding full contact practices and start league play in August – does not make sense.

“It was a shock more than anything,” said Terry Nichols, general manager of the Kemptville 73’s. “We are convinced that we are just as elite as many of the chosen programs.”

League Commissioner Kevin Abrams has said he has been in contact with the province and while he understands his position he believes the CCHL should have been allowed to return to play as well.

“We have players drafted into the National Hockey League. We had the starting goalie for Team Canada at the world junior championships. [hockey championship]”said Abrams.

Brockville Braves forward Ryan Gillespie will likely be picked in this year’s NHL Draft, which CCHL officials say is not uncommon. (Robert Lefebvre / Icelandevel.com)

Other leagues “better positioned” to operate in complete safety

In a statement, a spokesperson for the province said that since “professional and elite amateur sports leagues” can perform better under strict health and safety requirements, they are “the best. placed to follow the strict protocols that will be required. “

“We want to make sure that all of our athletes can return to the game when it is safe to do so,” the statement read.

However, CCHL says they had no cases of COVID-19 while operating last summer.

Dustin Traylen, general manager of the Brockville Braves, said keeping the kids off the ice not only impacted their mental health, but also took a toll on the league.

“The last two years, [there have been] missed opportunities for the players, and it was very difficult in recruiting. It’s just made worse by a very, very messy situation, ”Traylen said.

Jason York, owner of the Kemptville 73’s and analyst for Sportsnet, said his concern extends beyond hockey to athletes across Ontario who cannot play their sport right now.

“There are a lot of kids who are faced with a ton of questions, and it’s’ What are we going to do next with our lives? “” York said.

Currently, official CCHL training camps begin on September 1, with the regular season starting just weeks after.



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