TORONTO – The Toronto Marlies and Belleville Senators have both opted into the 2020-21 AHL season, which has been pushed to the beginning of February due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While both are approved to play for the AHL, the Ontario government still hasn’t approved the Marlies and the Senators for play within Ontario.
In a press conference near Christmas, Ontario Premier Doug Ford told the Media there had been no decision on the matter. Meanwhile, Ford was quick to note that the decision would lie in front of the Health Advisory Board.
This all comes on the heels of Ontario’s largest lockdown to date, shutting Ontario’s doors province-wide.
“I can tell you I don’t see these numbers going down dramatically for at least another couple of weeks. Because of Christmas; just because of the volume of these numbers,” said Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Eastern Ontario Medical Officer to CTV News. “Is a month enough? I’m not even sure now.”
Four teams are expected to play their 2020-21 AHL season out of their parent clubs’ practice rink, which could be an option for the AHL’s two Ontario based clubs.
With restrictions similar to those in Santa Clara County, they may have the option of playing in another location, like the San Jose Barracuda, located in Santa Clara County, California.
I expect at least Western Conference two clubs to play out of their NHL club's facilities.#AHL
— PATRICK WILLIAMS (@pwilliamsAHL) January 4, 2021
On the OHL Front
On December 23, the Ontario Hockey League announced that it would delay the 2020-21 season once again, plowing through their February 4th start date.
Ontario Sports Minister Lisa MacLeod told Sportsnet that they have to weigh out the return to play plans through each league before they’re given the green light.
“We would look at what return-to-play would look like and what that would mean in terms of sanitation, social distancing in the arena before they get on the ice, things like that.” Said MacLeod, “At this point, we do not have any further guidance from the chief medical officer of health to allow them (OHL) to return to play,”
Finally, as on a Federal level, McLeod told Sportsnet, cross-border decisions come from the Federal Government.
“Just like with MLB and the NBA, those decisions on border crossings would be made by the federal government, so those are key considerations (the OHL) would have to take in.”
Rocket, Moose Still Waiting
As for the Manitoba Moose, the last update given by Manitoba’s Acting Deputy Chief Provincial Public Health Officer, they were still weighing the parent club’s options and what Winnipeg Jets return to play would look like.
Meanwhile, the Laval Rocket, stationed on Montreal’s outskirts, are still waiting for their return to play options. The Canadiens have since been approved to play in the Bell Centre for the 2020-21 NHL season.
Plus de détails sur l'autorisation obtenue par le Canadien de disputer ses matchs locaux au Centre Bell cet hiver.https://t.co/iKAQJ7Dhon
— Alexandre Pratt (@alexandrepratt) January 4, 2021
British Columbia and Alberta have both already approved NHL games in their province.
Stay tuned for a breakdown of the 2021 Marlies schedule in the days ahead.
Zack Power covers the Toronto Marlies for The Sin Bin. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @SinBinMarlies.