The SIJHL finally made it official stating their two American-based teams, the Wisconsin Lumberjacks and Thief River Falls Norskies, will not take part in the upcoming season.
Citing the United States and Canadian border closure and the expected extension of the closure through the spring of 2021 as being the reason for not being able to play.
At the same time, the SIJHL has pushed back the regular season start from November 14 to December 14 while adding an exhibition series starting next week.
When speaking to the local press, SIJHL Commissioner Darrin Nicholas said the commencement of game action in the league a welcomed step in the right direction. “It’s great to be able to shift the focus for our league back where it belongs – on the ice. We certainly want to thank Hockey Northwestern Ontario for their advocacy and leadership to get us to this point, and we remain unified in our commitment to a safe return to hockey.”
On the status of the regular season, Nicholas elaborated: “While we are cleared to begin competition from a regulatory body standpoint, we still have some teams facing significant challenges with facility access and availability to host games. It is just not reasonable to expect a team to start their schedule on the road indefinitely.”
Nicholas continued: “Our on-ice product will need to be modified under present restrictions to minimize physical contact. As such, this is creating a bit of uncertainty as to how our games will look. So not only will an exhibition window afford the league some much-needed time to sort through the various facility issues, but it will also allow our players, coaches and officials to get accustomed to our in-game modifications before points start counting in the standings.”
Rumored on ice modifications include no checking, full face shield protection for all players, and no faceoffs.
The SIJHL’s remote Ontario footprint and low infection numbers in the region played a very large part in this return to play plan. It is expected that the NOJHL will soon receive permission to begin play under a similar structure.
Joseph Kolodziej – Adviser