As Quebec relaxes restrictions and begins to reopen the economy, the Quebec Junior Major Hockey League announced that they have started to move towards resuming competition at the beginning of October.
They’re planning for a full season with some fans attending events. The rest of the Canadian Hockey League will be paying close attention to how the QMJHL proceeds during unprecedented times.
Quebec Plans to Drop the Puck in October
The Quebec Major Junior hockey league will be serving as an example to the rest of the Canadian Hockey League by pursuing an aggressive re-opening plan.
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The commissioner of the QMJHL, Gilles Courteau, recently unfurled a plan that includes a complete season along with the ability to welcome back fans into the arena. Since the league is sprawled across four Canadian provinces, the league had to start by notifying the governments of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Quebec.
Typically, the QMJHL starts its regular season in the last couple of weeks of September. Commissioner Courteau announced on Tuesday, June 2nd that the Q would start again on October 1st. In order to satisfy public health rules, the league will be developing a procedure to create a return-to-play plan to ensure that the minimum risk exists.
A Return to Play Remains Uncertain
The COVID-19 pandemic has been as unpredictable an event as modern history has witnessed. A return to play will depend entirely on whether or not the number of people who have contracted the disease continues to drop.
So far, Quebec has been the epicentre of coronavirus infections in Canada, and one of the most impacted areas in the continent of North America. Nonetheless, the province has been one of the most eager to reopen to business as usual – at least outside of the island of Montreal.
Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia were among the provinces least affected by the coronavirus, successfully preventing a mass breakout, unlike Quebec and Ontario. As such, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League teams outside of La Belle Province are in a stronger position to start a new season. Again, as long as infections don’t suddenly arise.
If Quebec is unable to reduce transmission levels sufficiently, some provinces might start to protest travel taking place from a place severely impacted by the pandemic to their own jurisdiction. The Charlottetown Islanders stated that they’re “looking forward to getting back to the Eastlink Centre”, but they also mentioned the importance of “compliance with our provincial government and the Chief Public Health office.”
Two out of three divisions in the Quebec junior hockey league standings are comprised entirely of teams in the province of Quebec. If public health measures are unable to loosen because of a severe second wave in Quebec, two-thirds of the league’s teams will be unable to play. Perhaps they will follow the NHL and their plan to play in a few host cities.
The overall tone of the announcement struck a positive, hopeful note. Gilles Courteau wouldn’t specify an exact number but mentioned that they’re planning for a complete season of 68 games, including “a certain percentage of spectators” live at the arena throughout the 2020-2021 campaign.
Rest of the CHL Will Keep a Close Eye on the Q
It’s likely that the rest of the CHL feels positive about the announcement made by the QMJHL, especially considering that Ontario and Quebec have had at least nine out of ten of all COVID-19 cases in Canada. Provinces like Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta, and British Columbia have had far fewer cases after they implemented a more successful strategy to fight the coronavirus.
If the Q is already planning to proceed, the Western Hockey League should be feeling confident about their chances to successfully return to action. Certainly, the main complication for the WHL would be the fact that U.S. teams would have to receive permission to travel across the border. Fortunately, the west coast of North America has been impacted far less than the east coast, which should reduce the overall difficulty of the WHL starting sometime in October or November.
Since most of the cases of COVID-19 in Ontario have been outside of the Greater Toronto Area, the Ontario Hockey League is likely to be able to rejoin action relatively easily – perhaps more than the QMJHL and the WHL. True, there are three American teams in the OHL, but the cities of Flint, Saginaw, and Erie haven’t been impacted as bad as big Canadian cities. Also, American cities generally tend to be more interested in re-opening than in Canadian towns.
Details for the Canada junior hockey 2020 season will continue to clarify throughout the summer, and it seems apparent that the QMJHL will dictate the direction of the season more than the CHL – the governing body that connects the QMJHL, OHL, and WHL.
One of the biggest questions will be whether or teams will play for the Memorial Cup at the end of the regular season. Certainly, teams in the Q play for pride to win their own local league, but the Memorial Cup is the second most prestigious pro trophy in Canada, behind only the Stanley Cup.
As much as teams want to win the Memorial Cup, the real prize for many players across the Canadian Hockey League is the ability to showcase their game in front of NHL scouts in the hopes of landing in the big league on a full-time basis. After having that chance cut short in the 2019-20 season, players will be anxious to return to action.
Betting on the QMJHL
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