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COVID-19 trickle down effect hits all forms of hockey

From the NHL all the way down to minor hockey across the country, rinks are empty due to COVID-19
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COVID-19 is having a profound effect on the sports world and the effect on hockey locally was no different, including the Northern Ontario Hockey League.

The league’s playoff schedule was cancelled earlier this week because of it, as were the playoff schedules of the Jr. A leagues across the country.

On Saturday, the Soo Thunderbirds released a statement on the situation via social media.

“Through the direction of the NOJHL, we will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation,” the statement from Thunderbirds general manager Trevor Zachary said. “Once we can announce our spring camp, we will do that through social media and our website.”

The Thunderbirds were scheduled to open up their second round NOJHL playoff series with the Blind River Beavers on Thursday night in Blind River before the game was postponed by the league before the decision was made to cancel the playoff season across the country.

In a statement announcing the decision, NOJHL commissioner Robert Mazzuca said “the NOJHL fully supports the decision made by Hockey Canada and the Canadian Junior Hockey League to cancel the remainder of the season.”

“We remain fully committed to the health and safety of our players, on- and off-ice officials, staffs, volunteers, dedicated fans and the general republic, and will maintain doing so as the world continues to deal with this global crisis.”

The announcement means all four of the CJHL’s regional championships and the Centennial Cup, held to crown the national champion, will also be cancelled.

In a prepared statement, CJHL president Brent Ladds said the decision was made in consultation with Hockey Canada.

“We continue to align our direction, consisted with that of Hockey Canada, and supports their overall direction completely.”

The decision by the CJHL came on the heels of a Hockey Canada directive that eventually led to the cancellation of minor hockey throughout the country.

In a release, Hockey Canada chief executive officer Tom Renney along with president and chief operating officer Scott Smith released a joint statement announcing the decision to cancel all forms of minor hockey under the Hockey Canada umbrella.

“Without question, this is an unprecedented period of difficulty for the sports world. The Health and safety of all participants in sport, including players, coaches, staff, officials, fans, family, volunteers and the general public, is of the utmost importance to Hockey Canada.”

The statement went on to say “although it is difficult to process the hockey season ending abruptly, we feel this is the best course of action in order to do our part in keeping our country safe.”

In addition to the Thunderbirds, the Great North Midget League’s Soo Jr. Greyhounds’ season was cancelled while the team was in Kapuskasing for the GNML’s first playoff tournament.

Also locally, the Sault Major Hockey Association and the Soo Pee Wee Hockey League schedules were cancelled for the remainder of the season.