NORTH BAY, Ont. — With the Canadian Hockey League, which includes the Ontario Hockey League, announcing that it is pausing play because of the coronavirus crisis, the North Bay Battalion’s home game Thursday night against the Mississauga Steelheads was one of the first casualties.
“The Canadian Hockey League and its three regional leagues, the Ontario Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and Western Hockey League, take the health and safety of our players, fans, volunteers, staff, and general public very seriously,” the league said in a statement.
It said that CHL president Dan MacKenzie, with OHL commissioner David Branch, QMJHL commissioner Gilles Courteau and WHL commissioner Ron Robison “have been monitoring the situation in regards to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) including what local, provincial, and federal health agencies have recommended.”
“Following consultation with medical professionals and meetings today among the CHL Executive Council, and regional league Board of Governors, the CHL announces that the balance of the 2019-20 season and all hockey activity shall be paused immediately until further notice.”
In a separate statement, Branch said: “In the best interest of the health of our players, member team staff, billets, on- and off-ice officials, our great fans as well as the general public, we deemed this to be the best course of action, effective immediately. We will continue to monitor ongoing public health developments regarding COVID-19 in the hope of continuing play at a point when it is safe to do so.
“We thank all Ontario Hockey League players and their families as well as staff and fans from across the League for their patience and encourage everyone to take the necessary precautions to ensure continued health and wellness.”
Apart from the Mississauga date at Memorial Gardens, other OHL games postponed on the first night were the Sudbury Wolves at the Peterborough Petes and the Saginaw Spirit at the Windsor Spitfires.
The Battalion has played 62 of its 68 regular-season games, with a won-lost-extended record of 17-41-4 for 38 points, fifth in the Central Division and last in the league. The club was slated to play a home-and-home series this weekend against the Barrie Colts, opening Saturday night at Barrie and ending Sunday at North Bay.
The Battalion is four points behind the Kingston Frontenacs and Niagara IceDogs, who are tied for the eighth and last playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.
The league also announced the cancellation of the OHL Cup tournament, conducted annually in March in conjunction with the Greater Toronto Hockey League. It features leading minor midget teams that include many of the players traditionally chosen in the OHL Priority Selection.
The OHL Priority Selection will be held as scheduled on Saturday, April 4, via the Internet.
North American OHL players will return to their families for an extended Easter break, with a timetable for return to their OHL centres to be determined.
Each team will monitor school board closings throughout Ontario to ensure a proper transition to return to school in OHL communities or to a player’s home school. Team academic advisors will be available to assist with the education needs of players.