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QMJHL, WHL, OHL cancel regular seasons over COVID-19

Kyle Cantlon
NHL Editor
The QMJHL officially closed the book on its regular season amid the coronavirus outbreak, as the postponement of the playoffs and Memorial Cup look inevitable, too. (Getty)

Quebec has been proactive as a province in leading closures, encouraging social distancing and shutting down major gatherings as the coronavirus started digging into our everyday lives.

Now, though it was all but an inevitability, Quebec’s major junior hockey league was the first to officially cancel the rest of its regular season in an effort to keep players, fans, staff and media safe amid the rapid spread of COVID-19.

The league released a statement on Wednesday which read, in part:

The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League today announced that all the remaining games of the 2019-20 schedule have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The regular season was scheduled to end on March 21, 2020.

The QMJHL release also noted that final standings will be determined (Rule R-6, article 5.2) by the following modalities:

  • The Commissioner shall determine the general standings of the teams by using the points percentage if all teams have not played the same number of games at the time of the event;

  • Should two or more teams be tied at the same rank, the team rankings will be conducted according to the tie-breaking procedure set forth in article 1.2.2 of R-12 Regulation (The Game: Rules and Procedures).

The QMJHL Draft Lottery, which was scheduled to take place on March 25, is being postponed to a later date.

Shortly after the QMJHL announced its plans, the WHL followed suit and called off the rest of their season.

“The WHL takes the safety of our players, officials, staff, fans, and everyone associated with the WHL very seriously. Given the ongoing public health developments regarding COVID-19, we deemed it necessary to cancel the remaining games on the 2019-20 WHL Regular Season schedule,” wrote WHL commissioner Ron Robison in a statement.

“We will continue to monitor ongoing public health developments regarding COVID-19. We will make every effort possible to conduct the 2020 WHL Playoffs at a later date. We thank WHL fans and partners for your patience and understanding during these challenging times.”

The league added that final standings for the 2019-20 WHL regular season will be determined by using win percentage.

And finally, right around 3pm EST, the Ontario Hockey League cancelled its remaining 56 games, citing similar sentiments as its sister leagues.

The league additionally confirmed that the 2020 OHL Priority Selection will be held live (online via the OHL’s website) on Saturday, April 4 as planned.

These cancellations across the CHL were surely a mere formality as their respective regular seasons were scheduled to conclude over the next week anyways, but with every frantic, passing day and every official cancellation, it all just gets a little more real as the world in general along with the hockey community try to wrap their collective heads around this rapidly-evolving cycle of constant change and uncertainty.

Where the CHL’s three leagues and their respective postseasons go from here is truly anyone’s guess, but it’s obvious the QMJHL, OHL and WHL playoffs—and the Memorial Cup—are all in serious jeopardy.

Scouting and preparation for the upcoming NHL draft will also be impacted by its primary feeder systems being shut down abruptly, but there really isn’t anything that hasn’t been impacted at this point. The NHL has yet to put forward a plan for how the league will carry out the NHL draft — which is currently scheduled for the last weekend in June — but in all likelihood it won’t be held in an arena or with fans in attendance, at the least.

NHL taking steps to control spread of COVID-19

The first confirmed case of coronavirus among NHL players was officially announced Tuesday night, with the Ottawa Senators revealing that an unnamed player had tested positive and was receiving treatment for “mild” symptoms.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, who was the original point of contact for the Senators’ medical personnel that handled the diagnosis, received word a few hours before the club sent out a press release, Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic reported Wednesday.

“(The) virus’s impact on our community was inevitable to a certain extent,” Daly told LeBrun. “It was really just a matter of time until we were going to have our first player test positive.”

“The fact that it’s a player as opposed to a club staff member or a front office staff person really doesn’t change the approach in terms of how you have to deal with it,” Daly said.

Daly was not aware of any other confirmed cases at the time of his chat with LeBrun, but he’s certainly not naive to the fact that other players n the Senators and across the league have been infected as well.

NHL Players propose altered playoff format

As the league and the NHLPA try to map out next steps with whatever little and rapidly changing information both parties are privy to, NHL players reportedly proposed a revised schedule for the league’s potential return to complete the 2019-20 season this summer.

TSN’s Frank Seravelli reported on Tuesday’s Insider Trading segment that multiple top NHL players have “kicked around some ideas” for what the rest of the season and playoffs can look like, should it return.

The potential plan, which has not yet been officially proposed to the league, would see teams return for a shortened “training camp” in early July before playing out a condensed version of the remainder of the regular season and concluding with the usual eight-week long postseason format.

No similar plan has been brought forward by the Canadian Hockey League, the QMJHL, OHL or WHL as of this writing.

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