I spent some of Friday afternoon wondering if David Branch, the OHL commissioner, burst out laughing or slapped his forehead when he discovered that Lisa MacLeod, Ontario’s sport minister, now is running his league.
If you missed it, a Canadian Press story indicated that MacLeod, who apparently was speaking to the Empire Club of Canada, stated that the OHL’s teams will play without bodychecking should their season get started on Feb. 4 as planned.
According to CP, MacLeod said that removing purposeful physical contact from the game is a necessary step to preventing the spread of COVID-19. She also said the decision was influenced by the QMJHL, which has had three teams experience a number of positive tests. Two of the QMJHL’s on-ice officials also tested positive.
Surely, Branch, who has been the man in charge of the OHL since 1979, must have had a good laugh, or another forehead-slapping experience. Or maybe he just rolled his eyes.
Anyway, it wasn’t long before the OHL put out this statement: “Until such time as we arrive at an agreed upon Return to Play protocol with the Government of Ontario, the League will have no further comment on the matter of body contact.”
Hopefully, Branch didn’t turn to Twitter to see the reaction. I mean, to say that people lost their stuff, well, that would be too kind.
People . . . people . . . really! Yesterday was Oct. 30. A couple of days ago, you thought the OHL was going to start on Dec. 1. Now it’s Feb. 4. This is, as they say, a fluid situation. If you haven’t learned that the virus is in charge here, you really haven’t been paying attention.
Meanwhile, allow me to share some of Friday’s virus-related headlines and tweets with you, just to, you know, keep you up to date because, hey, stuff is happening and it isn’t good . . .
CBC News: Quebec adds 1,108 new coronavirus cases; that’s the highest daily total in almost 2 weeks and pushed the province’s 7-day average to 961.
CBC News: Ontario is reporting 896 new cases of COVID-19. . . . The province’s 7-day average is now 909, the highest recorded since the pandemic began.
Daily Hive Vancouver: Canada is extending its ban on cruise ships until February of next year.
Bartley Kives, CBC Manitoba: Manitoba announced a record 480 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday.
Justin McElroy, CBC Vancouver, on Manitoba’s announcement: Per capita, that’s by far the highest any province in Canada has seen in a single day since the pandemic began.
Global News: St. Boniface Hospital intensive care unit officially over capacity.
Global News: Winnipeg closing rec centres, pools, arenas, libraries under new coronavirus restrictions.
680 CJOB: With over 400 new COVID-19 cases reported on Friday in Manitoba, new, tighter restrictions will effectively end sports in the Winnipeg region as of Monday.
Mike Sawatzky, Winnipeg Free Press: “Hockey Winnipeg president Chris Hall says that his organization is ‘shutting down everything effective (Saturday)’ after it was announced city would be under code red status by Monday. Several facilities, including the Iceplex, have already said they are shutting the doors.”
CBC News: Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said there were active alerts or COVID-19 outbreaks at 249 schools in the province.
CBC News: Alberta adds a record 622 new cases of COVID-19, as well as 5 new deaths, bringing the province’s total number of deaths to 323. This is significantly above the average of 450 new cases the province has been seeing for the last 10 days.
CBC British Columbia: B.C. announces 272 new cases of COVID-19 and 1 more death.
Global Okanagan: B.C. has granted regional medical health officers the powers to issue COVID-19 restrictions for their own jurisdictions. It comes as the province topped 6,000 people in isolation due to exposure for the first time.
Keith Baldrey of Global TV: Updating our southern neighbour’s COVID-19 situation: more than 1,000 cases in Washington state today (highest in weeks). In the past week alone: 5,200 cases/70 deaths/291 hospitalizations.
Associated Press: Confirmed U.S. coronavirus cases surge past 9 million as infections are on the rise in 47 states. (NOTE: There are 50 states in the U.S.)
CNN: The US surpasses 9 million coronavirus cases just 14 days after reaching 8 million. It was the nation’s fastest 1 million-case rise of the pandemic.
The COVID Tracking Project: Our daily update is published. States reported a new record number of cases — 97k — and 1.4 million tests. Currently, 47k people are hospitalized. There were 933 COVID-19 deaths reported.
Detroit News: President Trump claims country is ‘rounding the corner’ amid new COVID-19 surges.
The Globe and Mail: Bobby Orr endorses Donald Trump, calling him ‘the kind of teammate I want’
Now for something completely different . . .
Jason Gregor of TSN1260 in Edmonton was looking for good hockey chirps on Friday. . . . He tweeted that a texter who had played junior hockey sent him this one: “I started chirping a guy to scrap, and his response was ‘Put a coat on; it might be cold when you wake up.” . . . D Hal Gibb, who played with the Prince George Cougars, said he “slashed Ty Rattie after he scored to complete his hat trick and he said, ‘Don’t touch me. I have more goals this period than you do in your career.’ That was a little hurtful but fair.”
A few others that showed up on Gregor’s timeline . . .
To an opponent wearing an Itech bubble mask: “Nice window . . . can I get fries with that?”
“You better pack a lunch but, ’cause I’ll be beating you for days.”
“Another kid used to call me Shrek every time we played. I scored to make it 7-0 us and skated to his bench and told him, “This is my swamp now.”
“I was filling in as PA Announcer in MedHat for the Tigers. Clarke MacArthur just returned from a Gold Medal performance with Canada at the World Jrs, and was getting chirped about punching a rookie. His answer was . . . ‘How was your Christmas? Did you like watching me on TV?’ ”
“GMAC VS NAIT in playoffs. There’s a big round guy chirping in the stands as we come off the ice. One of our dmen yells back, ‘Hey buddy gravy isn’t a beverage!!’ The crowd on both sides laughed. Priceless.”
“At a high school basketball game in Southern Alberta an elderly lady yelled, ‘Come on Ref! I’ve seen better eyes on a potato!’ ”
“I was chirping a guy who played on the Canadian World Junior Team. I kept using his name and he turned to me and said: ‘Why do you know my name but I don’t know yours?’ That hurt.”
COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
An unidentified member of the junior B Kimberley Dynamiters organization has tested positive, resulting in the postponement of the team’s next two scheduled games. From a Kootenay International Junior League news release: “The individual in question has been placed in a 14-day quarantine and the Kimberley Dynamiters organization is following the direction of the Interior Health Authority relative to further testing and contact tracing, and adhering to all KIJHL Return to Play protocols.” . . . It wasn’t revealed whether this person is a player or staff member. . . . The Dynamiters were to have visited the Fernie Ghostriders on Friday and the Creston Valley Thunder Cats on Sunday. . . .
The 10-team Manitoba Major Junior Hockey League has put its schedule on hold until further notice due to a possible exposure and as the province’s numbers continue to climb. There were 480 positives announced on Friday; Manitoba’s previous single-day record had been 193. . . . Kerry Lines, the MMJHL president, told Game On Magazine: “We are taking a cautious approach due to exposure to COVID-19. We will reassess the situation on Monday. Games will be re-scheduled.” . . .
The Manitoba Female Hockey League has postponed all games until further notice. . . .
The MJHL postponed Friday and Sunday games between the Winnipeg Blues and Winnipeg Freeze. A scheduled Sunday assignment between the Steinbach Pistons and host Selkirk Steelers will be played tonight (Saturday). . . . After weekend games, it also will suspend games in its South East Division until further notice. The Blues, Pistons, Steelers and Freeze are in that division. . . .
The Manitoba AAA U18 Hockey League has postponed all games involving the Winnipeg Bruins, Winnipeg Thrashers and Winnipeg Wild through Nov. 15. . . .
Nineteen days after testing positive, soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo has tested negative so is able to return to play with Juventus. He tested positive while with the Portuguese national team, but has missed four Juventus games. Ronaldo is eligible to return Sunday against host Spezia in a Serie A game. . . .
The Hockey Hall of Fame won’t have a Class of 2021. However, the Class of 2020 will be inducted during the 2021 induction weekend (Nov. 12-15, 2021). The Class of 2020 comprises Ken Holland, Marian Hossa, Jerome Iginla, Kevin Lowe, Kim St-Pierre and Doug Willson. . . .
MLB has cancelled its owners’ meetings that had been scheduled for November and the winter meetings that were to have been held in December. Any sessions deemed necessary now will be held virtually.
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St. Paul’s Hospital
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Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney
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The Saskatoon Blades have added Tyler Dietrich as an assistant coach. He fills the void created when Ryan Keller, an assistant coach there since 2016, decided to step back a bit for family reasons. Keller will stay involved as a skills and development coach. . . . Dietrich, 36, spent the past four seasons involved with Hockey Canada’s video coaching program. . . . In Saskatoon, Dietrich will work alongside head coach Mitch Love and associate coach Ryan Marsh. . . . Dietrich is a former WHL player (Moose Jaw, Medicine Hat, Everett, 2000-05). He and Love were teammates in Moose Jaw and Everett.