By Darryl G. Smart
Despite having no idea what the future holds for this season, the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League is taking a proactive approach to its return to league play and having spectators back in the arena.
On Sunday, the league shared its plan in anticipation of spectators during the 2020-21 season. They are requesting a number of conditions that would allow people to watch GOJHL games live. They include:
• Assigned seating
• If assigned seating isn’t available, a maximum of 150 spectators are permitted.
• Arenas will be allowed to have 30% capacity, provided there is enough room for social distancing between extended household groups – side to side and front to back.
• Members of extended households must sit together, with a minimum of two metres between extended household groups.
• All facilities/organizations must determine a way to establish fixed/static seating, even when there is no individual seating or seat number available.
•Spectators should not be within two metres of players as they enter or exit the ice surface or dressing rooms.
• All players, coaches, team officials and spectators are strongly encouraged to use the Government of Canada’s tracking app.
• All spectators must wear a mask.
•Approval is granted by local public health.
Brantford Bandits owner Darren DeDobbelaer likes what he sees from the league.
“This is our wish list,” DeDobbelaer said. “But we are still at the mercy of the Ontario government.”
The GOJHL hopes that it can begin its 40-game regular season on December 2. What that will look like is anyone’s guess. With the current return to play protocols put in place by the Ontario Hockey Federation, games are to be played with no faceoffs and no contact, among several other modifications.
GOJHL members are hoping that there will be a domino effect from the Ontario Hockey League, who now have Ontario Premier Doug Ford in their corner when it comes to bringing game play back with contact.
WHAT LOCAL TEAMS ARE UP TO
In the Midwestern Conference, the Bandits have the luxury of game play with its Ontario Junior Hockey League big brother, Brantford 99ers.
DeDobbelaer said his two teams have two ice times per week, with one being a controlled scrimmage against each other.
Over in the Golden Horseshoe Conference, the Caledonia Pro-Fit Corvairs began ice sessions last week.
“We really don’t know what to expect from the government and the Haldimand-Norfolk Board of Health,” Corvairs assistant general manager Larry DeVuyst said.
Most teams in the conference have formed 50 player bubbles with other teams so they can have controlled scrimmages. The Corviars are the only team in the conference that have a different health board, so they are unable to form a bubble.
They are also only able to enter the arena 15 minutes prior to put on their skates and helmets, where they have to do so in the visitor dressing room area corridor.