By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express
The Ontario Hockey League (OHL) has announced players will be hitting the ice for the 2020-21 season on Dec. 1.
With last season ending early, and playoffs cancelled due to COVID-19, Oshawa Generals General Manager Roger Hunt says it’s good to have “something to look forward to.”
“I think it’s good and encouraging. It’s something to work towards, and I think it’ll be nine months since hockey paused or stopped, so I think everybody will certainly be excited to get their fix,” says Hunt.
The season will be 64 games and will conclude on April 29, 2021. It will then be followed by a 16-team playoff series, followed by the Memorial Cup, which will be hosted by either the Generals, or the Soo Greyhounds.
The season is condensed a little bit, according to Hunt, only being five months long, and he expects to see the games per week ratio be a little higher. He also expects there to be less travel for teams.
“For excitement, that will certainly lend itself to the local rivalries,” he says.
He notes the season will be quick, not to the same extent as other major sports such as baseball and the National Hockey League right now, but it’s important for the team to be ready to play come December.
Hunt hopes fans will be able to be in the stands, and that government officials will have deemed it safe enough to attend games.
“The atmosphere and the supporters that are in the building provide so much energy to the game. Hopefully by December we’re where we can keep everybody safe,” says Hunt.
Hunt believes safety is first and foremost when the team returns to the ice.
“The Tribute Communities Centre has done a great job with its reopening in this phase with some minor hockey players being allowed in,” says Hunt. “I think there will be some mandatory entrances and exits, and our area… probably is as clean as a hospital.”
He says the team has everything in place “you can possibly imagine” in order to keep players safe. This includes hand sanitizer stations, air purifiers and more.
“We were always one of the league leaders in how we treated our area anyways, and these enhancements will only go to further bettering them, and to further make sure we’re taking care of our players and staff,” he says.
Normally players would report to camp in August, but with the start of the season delayed, Hunt says he isn’t sure when training camp will start this year.
“[We’ll start] as early as we possibly can. If I’m working backwards, maybe… beginning of November to mid-November,” he says. “Whether we have exhibition games or not is one of the things that will need to be decided at the government, governor and league levels.”
With the team currently one of two candidates to host the 2021 Memorial Cup, Hunt says the team has yet to hear anything from the league.
“We’re prepared when we need to be called upon,” he says, adding the city and regional councils have both lent their support behind the team.