The Sarnia Sting remain confident they’ll play this season after the Ontario Hockey League pushed back the start date again Wednesday.
The season has been delayed indefinitely because of the Ontario government’s 28-day lockdown that will begin Saturday.
“We’re still optimistic. Everybody’s still really optimistic that things will work themselves out,” Sting general manager Dylan Seca said.
“Everyone’s honestly pretty positive. We’ve done a ton of work. (We’re) understanding what we can control. And the things we can’t control, like this, there’s nothing you can do about it.
“Everyone took it in stride and we’ll just keep working. When we get the green light, we’ll be ready to go.”
Training camps were scheduled to start Jan. 23 and the regular season was to begin Feb. 4. However, arenas across southern Ontario will be closed until at least Jan. 23 during the lockdown.
“The safety of all of our stakeholders and communities is our priority and we are committed to starting the 2020-21 season when it is safe to do so,” OHL commissioner David Branch said in a statement. “We know that this is difficult news for many of our players, fans, billets, parents, staff and teams.
“However, the restrictions both provincially in Ontario as well as nationally with regards to cross-border travel have informed our decision.”
Sting players received the bad news Tuesday.
“No one was surprised,” Seca said. “Literally no one’s surprised because with the provincial lockdown, it was obvious.”
The league plans to continue to consult and work closely with governments and health authorities to determine potential start dates.
A new date can’t be picked until teams know when they can get back on the ice.
“It will all depend on how the province reacts,” Seca said. “We know that we can play hockey in Ontario. We just don’t know when.”
Teams had been scheduled to play a shortened 40-game regular season.
They were expected to play mainly against opponents in their geographic region. The OHL wants to reduce travel to help protect the health and safety of players and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The regular season was to end May 8 and the eight-team playoffs would have started May 11.
The Sting had already been eliminated from the playoff race when last season was cancelled in mid-March because of the pandemic.
The OHL’s Canadian Hockey League brethren are also currently idle. The Western league’s start date is also to be determined while the Quebec league is hoping to resume its season in January inside a number of fan-less bubbles.
– With files from Ryan Pyette