The Superior International Junior Hockey League has set its sights on November 14 as a tentative start date for the 2020-2021 season. But there are still factors at play, before the puck can drop.
The goal of the SIJHL is to complete an uninterrupted 2020-21 season schedule with participation of all seven member franchises located in Canada and the United States, and have our 2021 Bill Salonen Cup league champion represent the SIJHL at the Dudley-Hewitt Cup to challenge for a spot in the Centennial Cup Canadian Junior A Championship tournament.
Achievement of this will depend largely on any public health restrictions in place on account of the pandemic. Specifically, barriers currently in place indefinitely that necessitated the decision to delay the start of training camps to at least September 14 and the start of the SIJHL to November 14 are:
In Ontario, there is a restriction for indoor public gatherings that limits attendees to 50 people.
In Ontario there is a restriction for sports leagues that limits participants to 50 athletes.
In Ontario there is a restriction that sports competitions do not contain “intentional or deliberate contact.”
Furthermore, the US / Canadian border is closed to non-essential travel until at least August 21.
“We’ve been actively monitoring the developments in our region and with the US / Canadian border and working closely with authorities in amateur hockey and public health,” said SIJHL Commissioner Darrin Nicholas. “On the Canadian side, we are seeing positive indications as our region has now entered Stage 3 of reopening. However, the restrictions that remain in place are clearly a barrier to a traditional start time to our season.”
Nicholas continued: “The safety of our communities, fans, players and team staff is of paramount importance. Beyond that, we’d like to have our fans both north and south of the border experience the SIJHL brand of hockey they’ve come to expect and all indications are that a mid-November puck drop gives us the best chance for this to be achieved.”
The Ontario restrictions and the border closure are under constant review and revision by governmental and health authorities. Based on recent developments and indications, the SIJHL is optimistic that some or all restrictions will be loosened in time to permit our November 14th tentative start date.
Presently, the SIJHL has no plans to request any special treatment or exemptions to permit our league to operate outside of the recommended guidelines and restrictions put in place by our respective governments and health authorities. The league is mindful of the ongoing efforts to manage the pandemic and is committed to having our operations be compliant with all mandated public health requirements at all times.
“On behalf of the board of governors, we once again would like to thank all of our communities, players, families and staff for their continued support through these unchartered times. Our new commissioner, Darrin Nicholas, has hit the ground running and done a phenomenal job since minute one in getting up to speed and taking charge of a plan to move forward. After many conversations, not only amongst ourselves as owners as well as with provincial guidance and communication with our arenas we feel that the November 14 date allows us time to continue along a pathway to return to play,” said Doug Lein, Chairman of the Board of Governors.
Teams will have the option of holding extended training camps beginning September 14, 2020 which will be subject to any public health restrictions as well as league and sport return-to-play guidelines that may be in effect at that time.
The extended training camps will strictly follow all the COVID-19 guidelines.
SIJHL venues are also preparing for protocols to be enforced once the buildings are open to fans again.
The 2020-21 SIJHL schedule will be announced at a later date.