Final whistle for minor hockey leagues in region

SOUTH DUNDAS – The formal minor hockey season is over before it was able to start.

The Upper Canada Minor Hockey League – which operates B-Rep, B-House, and C-House level hockey in this region – formally cancelled its 2020-21 season on December 20th in reaction to the upcoming province-wide shutdown.

The league had opted for a two-phase plan for beginning the season with clubs playing in bubbles at their home arenas for the fall portion of the season. Players were allowed to play in three-on-three or four-on-four scrimmage matches, as well as working on drills and skills.

This phase of the season was to last until the end of December when the UCMHL executive was going to determine if a return-to-play could happen in January.

The announced December 26th 28-day provincial lockdown has ended any chance for that to happen.

Scot Easton, UCMHL said that even if areas move back into green level of restrictions, Ontario’s COVID-19 framework only allows leagues of up to 50 players.

“The District One Executive is in the unfortunate position of having to cancel the 2020-21 season of the UCMHL in its entirety,” Easton said.

Associations can still operate, once local conditions allow and the provincial lockdown is lifted, as it did in the fall.

“It’s no surprise to me because I didn’t see the 50 player restriction being lifted. As cases rose it didn’t look like things were going to get better anytime soon,” said Joyce Latulippe, South Dundas Minor Hockey Association President.

In a separate announcement, that club said it was suspending hockey activities planned until January, but would be meeting to discuss the next steps.

“We were just going to roll through the Christmas season,” Latulippe said.

The association had planned to have ice time throughout the season for the different bubbles to continue playing in scrimmage matches.

With the lockdown coming, she said the SDMHA decided it was better to close down now.

“It was two days of ice rental,” Latulippe said. “Shut it down and keep everyone safe.”

She explained that the SDMHA had a plan to continue play even if the region had gone into the Red-Control level under Ontario’s COVID-19 framework. Only 10 players and two coaches are allowed in an arena when  Red-Control restrictions are in place.

“Had we gone to Red, we would have been ready to modify,” Latulippe said. “If that is what we start up with after the lockdown, so be it.”

The SDMHA’s coaches have already worked out how the current team bubbles would be split into smaller groups.

“We will work with the parameters of public health at that time,” Latulippe said. “Our goal is to keep the kids on the ice as much as we can, doing what we can.”

Ontario’s lockdown order goes into effect at midnight, December 26th and runs for 28 days. Indoor arenas are among the facilities that are closed during that period.

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