For the first time in the 58 year history of the Central Canada Hockey League there will be no league champion. The CCHL was one of the first junior leagues in Canada to put the brakes on its playoffs when it suspended play on March 12 as the COVID-19 pandemic was taking hold in Canada.
Now, in a sweeping interview with Your TV Ottawa Valley cable television, league Commissioner, Kevin Abrams says when the decision was made, the league’s board of governors were in shock. “I don’t really think anybody appreciated the severity and consequences of this, but once the reality hit home, everyone was supportive, but disappointed. ”
The Commissioner says the greatest disappointment is for the league’s graduating players who have been denied the opportunity to compete for a championship in their final season of junior hockey eligibility, but in the final analysis there was no choice. This week the major junior hockey circuit reached the same conclusion as the Junior A leagues across the country, when they too cancelled their post season.
“It takes a lot to shutdown hockey. This is so far beyond anything we have had to deal with before. I think that is what hit all of us as the reality set in,” says Abrams. The pandemic has resulted in all levels of government and public health officials restricting the movement of people as social distancing is practiced to stop the spread of the virus. From his home, the Commissioner is staying in contact with team owners and officials as they try to plan their next steps in a fluid situation that offers more questions than answers.
In a best case scenario, the CCHL will be back on the ice for a regular fall kick off to its season, but no one really knows how long it will take for life to return to normal. Abrams admits the loss of the playoffs has had a financial impact on the league teams, and the cancellation of other events like spring player recruitment camps are also problematic for the clubs. “It’s huge. Some markets more than others. There is no question the short term impact is significant,” says Abrams who previously owned junior hockey teams and understands the economics of operating hockey clubs at this level.
“I’m hopeful we will be playing hockey in September and in August we will be opening training camps, but we all have to do our part to make that happen,” says Abrams. Only time will tell as the pandemic is so much bigger than sports, but Abrams believes that when we do get through this world wide crisis, hockey fans will have a new appreciation for the game. “When we do get back, we are going to recognize that hockey is a big part of what makes the quality of life so important in Canada.”
In the meantime, Abrams will continue to work from his home, regularly communicating with league officials and planning for an uncertain future. Hockey is our national sport, but it’s never been dealt a hip check like this. Abrams is hoping there will be a silver lining from these dark and worrisome days of isolation. “Not being allowed to go to a hockey game right now, might change the way people feel about going to events. I think they will really appreciate it more.”
Abrams and the league are hoping that will mean a return of the fans who support the Central Canada Hockey League when the puck drops again, whenever that might be.