No ice for Junior teams this year

February 11, 2021   ·   0 Comments

With no ice, no practices, and no games at all, local junior hockey players have changed their focus to preparing for the start of the next season – hopefully in September 2021. 

Some teams got a few exhibition games in before Christmas, but that’s all they have been able to do this year. Those games were played under some strict new rules that included no contact and no-face offs. 

Players in the Provincial Junior Hockey League had been anticipating a start to the season in January, but learned everything had been cancelled when the province went into lockdown. 

Braden Henderson, alternate captain for the Alliston Junior C Hornets, was starting his first season as a defenceman for the Alliston team. 

“We were a little surprised, but we kind of saw it coming the way things were going with COVID,” Braden said of learning the season was called off. “We were definitely disappointed. We were looking forward to the season. I though we as a team were going to do pretty good. We had a lot of returning players.” 

The Hornets did get in a few exhibition games before Christmas with the Orillia Terriers, but the rules and style of play had been changed to accommodate physical restriction rules. 

Teams were allowed to play only against other teams that were based within the same Health Unit area. Because of that some junior teams had no other teams to go up against at all. 

“I played four or five games,” Braden said. “We were playing two games in a night and splitting the team in half. Half the team would play the first game and the other half would play the second game. We were rolling two lines with four defencemen. We were playing with no penalties and no face-offs. When a whistle blew for an off-side, the possession changed. After a goal, they just took the puck and went. It was very tiring – you usually get a bit of a break with the whistle. You really had to keep your head up. It was weird to play hockey without contact. It was different style hockey for sure.” 

If a penalty was accessed, a player would get a penalty shot instead of removing a player from the ice. 

With no hockey taking place, Braden is focusing on his studies at Georgian College where he studies business management, but he keeps in shape with dry land training. 

Most teams have given players a physical regimen to follow so they will stay in shape while they are off the ice. 

With the sport in hiatus, team management is now focusing on next season. 

“Right now everybody is trying to make their teams the best possible for the next season,” Braden said. “In the off time you can spend time on things like recruiting players.” 

Hockey Canada and the Ontario Hockey Federation have released very little information recently with regards to a return to the sport. 

The governing bodies have little choice but to wait and see what happens with current pandemic restrictions before making any decisions that will put players back on the ice. 

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