Major shakeup in the CHL; OHL season over, WHL nixes playoffs

The OHL announced today that it has ended its return to play plans for the 2020-21 season due to the recently extended stay-at-home order in Ontario.

“We have worked tirelessly with the Province and the Chief Medical Officer of Health for the past year on different scenarios and different windows of opportunity but the reality is the conditions in Ontario have never been right to start and complete an uninterrupted, safe opportunity for players to showcase their skills,” said OHL Commissioner David Branch. “We owe it to our players and their families to be definitive. We were committed to return and play this season, but our hopes and desires have been dashed by the cruel realities of COVID-19.”

A few weeks ago, league officials announced that they had reached an agreement with government officials on an OHL Return to Play plan. The league said in a release that on the eve of them announcing the details, COVID-19 cases worsened in the province.

The statement read: “The plan envisioned a shortened season to be played in hub cities following the most rigorous COVID-19 containment protocols possible. The goal was to showcase the League’s 450 players for scouts preparing for the 2021 NHL Draft, U SPORTS men’s hockey programs as well as Hockey Canada’s World Junior Summer Evaluation Camp.”

“Ontario has the strongest health restrictions of any jurisdiction in North America and we understood that this would make a return to play scenario extremely difficult,” added Commissioner Branch. “The openness the Premier, Minister Lisa MacLeod, the Office of the Chief Medical Officer and key staff have afforded us has not gone unnoticed and is greatly appreciated. We all agree that providing certainty for our players and families, even if it is not the answer they would want to hear, is the right thing for everyone’s health and safety and for the mental health challenges faced by many of our young players.”

Meanwhile, out west, the WHL did resume regular-season play but it announced that the season will end at the conclusion of the regular season due to COVID-19 concerns.

“When we returned to play in February, we set out with the intention of completing a 24-game regular season schedule, knowing adjustments would be needed along the way,” WHL Commissioner Ron Robison said in a statement. “We remained hopeful that public health conditions would improve, but unfortunately that is not the reality we see in front of us today.”

The league said in a release that it was hampered in playoff efforts due to travel restrictions across provincial and international borders.

Last week, the CHL canceled the Memorial Cup.

The QMJHL is still scheduled to move forward with a modified playoff format.