OHL to drop the puck this fall for 2021-22 regular season

·4 min read
Guelph Storm's Nate Schnarr, right, battles Prince Albert Raiders player Zack Hayes during the 2019 Memorial Cup championship. The 2020 and 2021 tournaments were cancelled because of the pandemic. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press - image credit)
Guelph Storm's Nate Schnarr, right, battles Prince Albert Raiders player Zack Hayes during the 2019 Memorial Cup championship. The 2020 and 2021 tournaments were cancelled because of the pandemic. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press - image credit)

Following a 2019-20 season that was cut short and a 2020-21 season that was cancelled, the Ontario Hockey League has announced plans to drop the puck for its 2021-22 regular season this fall.

"The league is excited to circle another date on the calendar as opening night for the 2021-22 regular season is set for Thursday, October 7," the OHL said in a statement.

Players will report to training camps on Sep. 4 before the league "embarks on a conventional 68-game regular season schedule" from Oct. 7 to April 3, 2022.

The playoffs are targeted to start four days later, ending May 30 "at the latest."

It's exciting news for Matt Maggio.

The 18-year-old forward with the Windsor Spitfires, one of the 20 teams that make up the OHL, would have played in his draft year during the 2020-21 season. But following its cancellation, Maggio decided to head to Sweden to play in a pro league.

"It helped me grow a ton on the ice," he said, adding he also "learned to live alone."

"In a foreign country like that, it was definitely something that made me mature and grow up."

But now that he's back home in Windsor, Maggio said he's "humbled" to get back to playing as a Spitfire — something he's been dreaming about since he was a kid.

Due to the cancellation of the OHL's 2020-21 season, Windsor Spitfires forward Matt Maggio, 18, spent the past few months playing in a professional league in Sweden.
Due to the cancellation of the OHL's 2020-21 season, Windsor Spitfires forward Matt Maggio, 18, spent the past few months playing in a professional league in Sweden.(Submitted by Matt Maggio)

"I really hope that we are able to have fans this year and we can bring back that winning franchise, that winning culture that we had," he said. "Given there was no season last year, everyone's going to be hungry to win this year."

OHL only of 3 leagues fully iced in 2020-21

Not everyone was as lucky to get professional ice time after the OHL's last season, according to Oshawa Generals owner Rocco Tullio.

He said the "overseers" and "draft-eligible kids" lost an opportunity to showcase themselves, while the Canadian Hockey League's two other branches — the Western Hockey League and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League — played at least some portion of their 2020-21 seasons.

"Obviously, it was disappointing what our government did there on the eleventh hour to these kids. But we seem to be on the right track now," said Tullio. "So it's an exciting time and hopefully we have a great season for these kids."

He added there's a lot of work to be done ahead of October, like designing marketing packages, contacting holders of season tickets, ordering equipment, and reaching out to coaches and players to coordinate schedules.

Bill Bowler, general manager of the Spitfires, agreed that the toughest part of the past few months was seeing the players in the WHL and QMJHL continue to show off their talents — adding it's "long overdue" for the OHL to be back in action.

Rocco Tullio, owner of the Oshawa Generals, says the cancellation of the 2020-21 season resulted in a lot of players losing an opportunity to showcase their talents.
Rocco Tullio, owner of the Oshawa Generals, says the cancellation of the 2020-21 season resulted in a lot of players losing an opportunity to showcase their talents.(Sanjay Maru/CBC)

But he said his team is "ready to go."

"We were ready months ago. The players have continually trained and our coaching staff ready to get rolling whenever the date is," said Bowler. "We're counting the days already."

Memorial Cup targeted for June 2022

The OHL is an important source of players for the National Hockey League and Canada's national teams.

Besides the 17 Ontario teams, there are two in Michigan and one in Pennsylvania.

The 2022 Memorial Cup tournament is expected to be held between June 2 and 12.

Bill Bowler, general manager of the Spitfires, says his team is 'ready to go' for the 2021-22 OHL season.
Bill Bowler, general manager of the Spitfires, says his team is 'ready to go' for the 2021-22 OHL season.(Sanjay Maru/CBC)

"The league is in the process of developing a regular-season schedule," said OHL commissioner David Branch.

The complete schedule will be announced in the coming weeks. Details on if fans will be in attendance for the games — at full or limited capacity — have not been disclosed.

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