Sting, OHL scheduled to return December 1

The Sarnia Sting win at home vs Sault Ste. Marie Mar. 1, 2020 (Photo courtesy of Metcalfe Photography)

The Ontario Hockey League’s 2020-2021 season will start later than usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will feature a shortened schedule.

The league announced on Wednesday that play is scheduled to start on December 1, 2020 subject to ensuring that the players, fans, staff and the community are able to play and attend games safely.

Normally, the 68 game schedule kicks off in late September. This year teams, including the Sarnia Sting, will play 64 contests.

The playoff format remains unchanged with the top eight teams from each conference making the postseason.

The league didn’t provide specific details on safety measures but said it will work with the government and health agencies to address things like safe attendance and cross border travel for teams and players.

Sarnia Sting Director of Marketing and Corporate Sponsorships Jake Bourrie said it’s a positive step forward.

“Obviously, the priority of the Sarnia Sting and the OHL as a league is the safety of its fans and its players and everyone involved,” he said. “They’ll be working directly with government and professional medical opinion on the best route for that. It’s a framework and it’s a step in the right direction. We’re positive about it. Everything seems to be a little bit different right now but we’re doing some things to change up what we do and what was normal at one point. A lot of things that involve contact and moving into touchless payments and things like that. We welcome change and we welcome the opportunity. We’re looking forward to getting back.”

The regular season is scheduled to end on April 29, 2021.

“We are looking forward to getting back to playing hockey, but are committed to ensuring that we do so in a manner that is safe and healthy for our players, officials, families, billets, teams, staff, fans and the community,” said OHL Commissioner David Branch. “Players will remain at home until the season resumes and teams will work closely with them on both their academic studies and overseeing their on and off-ice development. In addition, the League will liaise with our facilities to ensure that our venues are safe for our return to play.”

The 102nd Memorial Cup presented by Kia is scheduled to be played June 17-27, 2021 and will be hosted by either the Oshawa Generals or Soo Greyhounds.