In a span of 24 hours, the Ontario Hockey League went from playoff races to uncertainty.
With COVID-19 spreading, the first domino to fall was the NHL early Thursday afternoon and other leagues across North American soon followed by postponing their seasons.
For the Soo Greyhounds, the news came as the team was on the road to Kitchener for a road game against the Rangers on Friday night.
“It’s been very weird,” veteran Greyhounds forward Col MacKay said. “We were in Espanola when we turned around and the next thing you know, everyone is back in their hometowns and just sitting around and waiting. It’s weird to not know when we’re going to be back playing again or if we’re going to be back playing again. It makes it hard to approach it.”
Asked about the situation across the league as teams prepare for the playoffs, MacKay called it "a tough situation."
“It’s tough to grasp. It’s really unfortunate," MacKay added. "There’s a league-wide disappointment and a lot of uncertainty. For all of the teams that were hopeful to go on a run and that goes for us too going on a run to make the playoffs, it’s pretty disappointing and kind of earth-shattering. It’s a tough situation for sure.”
For MacKay, the uncertainty of the future means not knowing exactly how to approach the time away from the rink.
“The first day, I went back into the gym and to be totally honest, I didn’t know how to approach it because of the uncertainty,” MacKay said. “You can either work out and maintain for what could be the rest of the season or you can start getting at your summer training like you would normally (at the end of the season). It’s hard to know for sure. That makes this first week or so pretty confusing. Right now, I’m just trying to do some basic workouts and fill my time as much as I can.”
The announcement from the OHL came as the Greyhounds were in the midst of a playoff race.
The team sat one point behind the Erie Otters for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference as they prepared for the road trip that never happened.
“It was really hard,” MacKay said. “We understood where we were in the standings, being one point back and on a three-game winning streak. For that to come to an end the way it did, it’s pretty tough to grasp and hard to understand but we understand that this is all bigger than sports. Health comes first. It was definitely a weird way to turn a season around.”
How has life changed for MacKay in the days following the decision?
“It’s been different,” MacKay said. “I’ve been watching the news a lot more than I usually would. I’m just trying to stay healthy and trying to keep my family safe and friends. That’s most important. I’m just trying to take care of myself and do what I can to stay healthy.”