Last week, the Canadian Hockey League confirmed the cancellation of the Memorial Cup for the second consecutive year due to concerns linked with the COVID-19 pandemic.
That major junior hockey championship typically includes the winners of the Ontario Hockey League, among other clubs, but the OHL announced on Tuesday that it canceled its season because of the health crisis.
"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," OHL commissioner David Branch said in the prepared statement. "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."
The OHL previously reached an agreement on a return-to-play plan but had that thwarted due to rising COVID-19 cases and subsequent lockdown measures in Ontario.
"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," Branch added. "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."
According to the NHL website, seven OHL players were selected in the first round of the 2020 NHL Draft.
"Since 2013, the OHL has produced more first and second round picks, more forwards and more defencemen than any other league in the world while producing the second-highest number of goaltenders," the OHL explained.
Players under the age of 20 years old drafted from OHL teams will be permitted to play in the American Hockey League for the remainder of the season.