It’s been 365 days since the last London Knights hockey game – London

Just before 8:15 p.m. on March 8, 2020, a red light shone behind a net and a horn sounded in Budweiser Gardens. A line of London Knight players skated past their bench through a flood of high-fives.

Chelsea Dagger by the Fratellis started playing and nearly all of the 8,953 fans in attendance who had stayed to see the final moments of a Sunday night clash between two of the top teams in the Ontario Hockey League stood up and walked away. applauded. Most of the young faces in the stands danced in what has been a familiar celebration at Knights’ games for years.

It was the 133rd time the scene has been played in London during the 2019-2020 OHL season. The goal completed a 3-1 victory over the Oshawa Generals. Liam Foudy scored and added an assist in the game. Connor McMichael’s 47th of the year took him to less than three goals after hitting 50. The win was London’s seventh in a row and the 26th in their last 29 games.

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The Knights played as well as anyone.

London Knights goaltender Brett Brochu slips a leg into the enclave to make a save against the Ottawa 67’s.

Jim Van Horne / 980 CFPL

The last 1:32 of the match ran out, the players left the London bench and surrounded the match’s first star, Brett Brochu. They skated to the center of the rink to greet the fans, then the Knights took off one by one enjoying the thrills of an exhaustive weekend sweep. Next was Flint Friday.

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Everyone in that London locker room had heard of the new coronavirus. The one that had been identified all over the place, including the city where they were now. Still, the level of worry wasn’t something that made it the main topic of conversation as everyone stripped off their gear, showered and then stepped out into what was still a balmy March night after an 11-degree day. .

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No one knew that three days later a test for this new coronavirus in Oklahoma City would give a positive result for Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz. The test that brought a scene to the field before the Jazz and Thunder were set to meet on March 11 at almost the same minute the world could gaze at a photo of the famous glassy eyed faces of Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson who confirmed they had also tested positive in Australia.

From there, a wave as big as Cow Bombie swept through the NBA, where Commissioner Adam Silver quickly put their season on hold indefinitely. That same wave saw the NHL, MLS, and Major League Baseball do the same. The next day, OHL commissioner David Branch announced the regular season suspension. Six days later, as everyone everywhere continued to understand that COVID-19 was unlike anything they had witnessed, the 2020-21 Ontario Hockey League season was called off.

It’s now been exactly one calendar year between games for the London Knights and there’s no schedule in sight for another at the moment.

As of today, nine other OHL teams mark the 365th day without a game. As this week continues, eight more will mark the anniversary. Hamilton and Mississauga are one year and one day away.

Over time there have been hopes of resuming play. Last year was lost, but a return to the ice for part of a 2020-21 regular season has not been ruled out.

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But where exactly is it?

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The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League propelled stops and starts. He’s bubbled and bubbled and his season has been far from perfect in terms of play or, certainly, profitability. But he did exist. It has rankings and statistics. It provided a stage for draft-eligible players.

The other branch of the Canadian Hockey League has begun its return to the West. The Alberta WHL teams played two game weekends. The league administered more than 600 tests for COVID-19 which came back with 600 negatives. Over the next three weeks, the Saskatchewan and Manitoba teams, the US Division and the five BC clubs will start games.

Other junior leagues have taken over or have specific plans. ECHL and the American Hockey League have a regular season in full swing.

Why not the OHL?

It has become a great question.

He produced some familiar refrains:

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The line “Everything is on the table” was used.

In the most recent statement in response to a letter written by Owen Sound Attack defender and former London Knight Andrew Perrot, the OHL wrote: “We are working closely with the government on how best to facilitate and execute a safe return to play.

And yet, when you hear from a key government official such as Ontario’s medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, the prognosis looks bleaker than ever.

Williams responded to a question about the Ontario Hockey League’s return on March 4 with a curvy two-minute and 34-second response that can be heard below.

His response included, “We had the OHL on our discussions for a while and kinda like we have with the NHL and more recently the AHL and the WHL and others, because what we wanted them to do is It is to emulate the successful model of the NHL, if I may.

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Williams explained how the US states where Ontario Hockey League teams are located present challenges given what he called “much higher community transmission rates” and how this management would require “good amount of infrastructure and a good amount of infrastructure. investment and costs that leagues like the NHL can manage. (Michigan reported 1,526 new cases on March 4 for a population of 9.98 million. Ontario has reported 994 new cases for a population of 14.5 million.)

Williams has raised concerns about the resources available to professional leagues to try to ensure safety. He then referred to the threat of “long haul syndrome” and said he would hate “for a potential young NHL star to be sidelined in his career due to a case of COVID.”

Williams ended by stating that he “wanted to get [the OHL] operational as soon as we can by working with examples from our professionals… hoping to get something, if we can, that is safe and consistent and protects their careers and their health… ”

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The OHL held a meeting with team representatives two days before Williams responded.

Nothing was made public as a result of this meeting and no other information was released by the province.

This leaves the Ontario Hockey League in a very similar position to what it has held for much of the past calendar year; in discussion with government officials and teams on how to address challenges such as player safety, a closed border to team travel, and an inability to play in front of paying customers.

There is still time to create and achieve a framework for a shortened season but that time itself continues to get shorter day by day.

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Catherine J. Martinez