By Darryl G. Smart
The long-awaited Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League season kicks off tonight. Unfortunately it won’t include the Caledonia Pro-Fit Corvairs.
They will have to wait another week and lose four points in the process.
Earlier this week, the Corvairs were told they had to forfeit their first two games of the season because of the GOJHL’s COVID-19 Policy. They were to open on the road against the St. Catharines Falcons Friday, before returning home to take on the Niagara Falls Canucks in their home opener.
“Due to recent changes in regards to the players being vaccinated we were hoping to reschedule but will not receive the opportunity,” a statement by Corvairs president and coach Mike Bullard said. “Our opponents were not open to the idea of a schedule change and preferred we forfeit.”
In conversation with Corvairs coaching staff, seven players are currently not fully vaccinated. They are all waiting for a second dose.
“We did not want to risk injuries to the 13 skaters,” Bullard said.
On August 31, the GOJHL announced its mandatory vaccination policy. That policy, “Requires that all GOJHL ‘Player Access Personnel’ (players, coaches, trainers, team and league staff, officials, volunteers and billet families) be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with vaccine(s) approved for use by Health Canada by the first day of the GOJHL regular season, September 24, 2021. Billet family members under the permitted age for vaccination by applicable Public Health Agencies are excluded.
Prior to Monday’s GOJHL meeting, the Corvairs were told by the league that players with one dose and waiting for their second were able to participate in games and practices, if they had a negative result after a rapid COVID test.
According to the GOJHL COVID-19 Safety Protocols given to each team, players that request and are granted an approved exemption must, among other protocols, “At their own expense, be required to produce a negative PCR COVID-19 test no less than two days prior to September 24, 2021, or at any given point in the season. They will, at their own expense, undergo repeat PCR COVID-19 testing every three weeks throughout the season and prior to the return to the team after any time away from the team.”
Other protocols include showering alone, sitting alone at team meals, or at least 3 metres apart from others, not allowed to travel with other participants, and bus travel will require seating accommodations where unvaccinated players or vaccinated players will sit no closer than 2m away and always masked.
GOJHL commissioner Brent Garbutt was contacted but was unavailable for comment.