The Soo Thunderbirds were expecting to open up regular season on Saturday night at home.
Late Friday night, the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League issued a release that the Thunderbirds games against the Blind River Beavers on opening weekend have been postponed.
The postponement comes after three Blind River players displayed COVID-related symptoms earlier this week and went into isolation.
The players have gone for testing and are awaiting their results.
Both teams have been instructed by the league to begin isolating and not hold any team-related activities until the test results were complete.
“We have obligations and responsibilities to all the communities, players, officials and everyone associated to league to do the right thing and we’ve done just that,” NOJHL commissioner Robert Mazzuca said in a prepared statement issued Friday night.
“All the protocols are being stringently followed and we continue to work closely with Algoma Public Health as we await the complete results of the COVID testing,” Mazzuca also said.
“In the meantime, we wait, as the health and safety of everyone involved remains paramount above all else.”
With the NOJHL pairing teams as cohorts, the Thunderbirds and Beavers were scheduled to meet five times through the end of November.
The games haven’t been rescheduled as of yet.
The other pairings will see the Espanola Express take on the French River Rapids; the Cochrane Crunch are paired with the Hearst Lumberjacks and the Timmins Rock are paired with the Rayside-Balfour Canadians.
On Friday night, Kyle Avery scored in the final minute of regulation time and Cooper Bowman had the shootout winner as French River beat Espanola 6-5 in the league’s first regular season game.
With regular season action underway, three teams are currently in limbo while another has taken a leave of absence for this season.
Currently, the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners are not playing as they work with local health officials in order to get back on the ice.
Meanwhile, the Powassan Voodoos are not playing due to arena restrictions put in place by the municipality.
The Michigan-based Soo Eagles are currently playing exhibition games while the border between Canada and the United States remains closed due to the pandemic.
The Elliot Lake Wildcats announced during the summer that the organization was taking a one year leave due to COVID-19 with plans to return for the 2021-22 season.
“The NOJHL fully supports each of the communities and their extensive efforts in dealing with this pandemic,” Mazzuca said in a prepared statement issued on Friday afternoon.
“We are in an ever-fluctuating scenario here and things are changing daily,” Mazzuca added.
Protocols for NOJHL regular season action remain in line with return to play policies of both Hockey Canada as well as the Ontario Hockey Federation and the Northern Ontario Hockey Association.
Capacity limits in the arenas, social distancing protocols and the process for ticket sales are all dictated by the health authorities in each market.