The CJHL is the Tier II or Junior A level of Junior Hockey In Canada. The CJHL is made up of the ten Junior A leagues spanning across Canada. Made up of more than 130 teams, the CJHL serves the development needs of nearly 3200 junior players annually.
The COVID-19 pandemic will likely force different start months for these leagues. Sources within Canada, team, league and other sources are reporting that Hockey Canada and the Provincial Premier’s will likely agree on a staggered start to the CJHL season.
In an unrelated but telling story the PGA Tour2020 Season in Canada has been cancelled already due to the border closure.
The most likely scenarios for the CJHL leagues are as follows;
Alberta Junior Hockey League, Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, Manitoba Junior Hockey League are all likely to start in September as is their traditional start time.
The limited infection rate in these Provinces combined with the rural nature of host cities and travel will limit COVID-19 exposure and infection potential. These leagues will likely open first.
The Ontario Junior Hockey League, the Central Canada Hockey League and the Quebec Junior AAA Hockey League will all likely start in October, possibly as late as January.
This is due to the pandemic having the highest infection rates in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.
The Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League, Maritime Junior Hockey League and the Superior International Junior Hockey League all have a good opportunity to start on time. Limited infections and rural locations will likely protect their start dates.
The BCHL is still very much up in the air as to when or if they will play in 2020. Unless and until ticket sales are allowed, or government assistance in the form of financial subsidy if provided, the BCHL is in danger of not playing in 2020.
None of these leagues potential start times have any impact on the border closure. The borders will continue to remain closed until the Canadian and United States governments reach agreements regarding non-essential travel and testing of those people traveling.
For those of you still wishing to believe you can go to Canada, here are the rules determining the essential and non essential border crossings from an internal memo of the CBSA. Full story here
If you read those official restrictions, there is no possible way for junior hockey players to cross the border. Take special note to the mention of those wishing to cross for hunting and fishing or other recreational pursuits.
While pressure is mounting to open borders, that pressure is largely related only to family reunification matters and not leisure or sporting activities.
While the Hockey Canada Registry is slated to open today, players are reminded that while borders are closed, and no season start dates have been announced that any speculation on when you could play in Canada is done at your own risk.
American players need to remember that this border closure is not simply about the rate of infections in each country. It is also about a lack of testing availability in each country.
Given the rise of infections in some states who have lifted restrictions, you can be sure that caution in further restriction lifting will be the name of the game in both countries as far as borders are concerned.
As I said to one of my clients yesterday with multiple offers in multiple CJHL leagues;
“Do you want to sign an agreement with a team, not knowing when you can report for the season? What if the season does not begin for them until November or even January? Are you prepared to take that time off, or do you want to play someplace maybe less desirable but assured of being ready in September?”
This is not simply a hockey issue. These issues are medical, political and financial. As much as the CJHL wants the American players and the American players want to go to Canada, its time to start looking at the big picture and preparing to move forward.
There are plenty of great, and safe places to play the upcoming season. While some may be not what you originally wanted, playing hockey in 2020 is a lot better than watching hockey in 2020.
Joseph Kolodziej – Adviser