The Ontario Hockey League (OHL), the lone Canadian major junior league not to begin a 2020-21 season, announced Tuesday that it has cancelled its return-to-play plan amid a third wave of COVID-19 in Ontario.
“We have worked tirelessly with the province and the chief medical officer of health for the past year on different scenarios and different windows of opportunity, but the reality is the conditions in Ontario have never been right to start and complete an uninterrupted, safe opportunity for players to showcase their skills,” said OHL Commissioner David Branch in a press release.
“We owe it to our players and their families to be definitive. We were committed to return and play this season, but our hopes and desires have been dashed by the cruel realities of COVID-19."
The league said the stay-at-home order, which was announced on April 7 by Premier Doug Ford, and the rapidly increasing case numbers across the province have made a resumption of play "impossible."
The OHL said that just a few weeks ago, on the eve of announcing its return-to-play plan, featuring a shortened season in hub cities, COVID-19 conditions worsened dramatically in the province as new variants took hold and threatened to overwhelm the health care system.
Ontario's minister of sport, Lisa MacLeod, said last week that it was "irresponsible" to approve an OHL season right now.
The league has been shelved since mid-March of last year, when it cancelled the remaining 56 games of the 2019-20 regular season due to the pandemic.
The news comes a day after the Western Hockey League (WHL) revealed it would not be able to host a playoffs, following a 24-game regular season, due to the pandemic.