Ice Availability, Fan Restrictions, Sponsorship All Hurdles Local Junior Hockey Teams Still Facing

There was incredible excitement in recent days as the GOJHL and PJHL announced their return to play for the first week of December.

The excitement was definitely welcomed after months of cancellations due to COVID-19, but there are still many questions to be answered before the puck drops.

Those include what happens if a second wave occurs? How many fans will be allowed into arenas? Will all local arenas re-open this season and will ice be available for teams? And will teams be able to get back sponsors?

According to last year’s PJHL Western Conference Manager Mark Hagerman, these are some of the things on the minds of local teams.

“Many factors are making it difficult for teams to plan around a season as sponsorship is most definitely a big part of the system, with uncertainty and lack of funds from the shutdown early this year many local businesses may find it hard to commit to their local team,” Hagerman said.

Many of the costs incurred by local Junior teams are covered by sponsors, and ticket sales. If either is limited, some teams may need to take a hiatus.

“Add in the process and safety procedures that may make it difficult to accommodate a junior hockey game and its fans, unlike the NHL it would be difficult for many teams to play with limited or no fans.”

Add in the challenge of scheduling ice, and there is still much work to do.

That said, Hagerman remains optimistic that local communities in Chatham-Kent, Essex County, and across Southwestern Ontario can come together to make a valuable season happen.

“I am optimistic and hope that things work out for the better and that the shortened season and possible altered playoff system will bring a product that satisfies the league and its fans,” Hagerman said.

Hagerman believes creativity and forward thinking will be crucial toward the success of teams and leagues.

“It is most certain that this year many organized sport programs will have to be creative to keep local athletes active and involved, my hopes are that this hurdle will help shine light on ways to keep these programs alive and viable moving forward. Our world has changed a great deal this past year but I never lose faith in communities coming together collectively  to keep sport and competition alive within hockey.

Local leagues continue to work with government and Public Health authorities to ensure the safety of players and fans.

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