Canadians announce return-to-play plans, while Express, Rapids pause as precaution

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Jeff Forsyth knows that everything must be written in pencil these days, but the Rayside-Balfour Canadians general manager is glad to at least have a rough draft of his team’s plans for the next month.

The Canadians announced their intention on Friday to resume their 2020-21 regular-season on March 14, with a series of games against either the Espanola Express or the French River Rapids.

Those teams are currently facing one another in some of the first NOJHL action since the province-wide lockdown was lifted earlier this month, with the series tied at a game apiece.

“We know that 14 days from the end of French River’s and Espanola’s cohort, we’ll be playing one of those two teams,” Forsyth told The Sudbury Star. “We’ll look forward to getting our guys  back in game action.”

Having returned to the rink on Feb. 17, the Canadians intend to set up some intra-squad games to keep things competitive, with the first being played as early as Tuesday.

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“We’re going to get some stuff going to prepare these guys for the next cohort, whoever that may be,” Forsyth said. “We can practise all we want, but we have to get into a game-like situation.”

With a full roster available, he said, there will be enough players for five-on-five action.

The NOJHL also plans to host an exhibition series involving the Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves of the Great North Under-18 League, pending approval from the Sudbury Minor Hockey Association. SMHA executives were expected to vote on the plan Friday night.

Regional COVID-19 measures prevent the Canadians from playing outside their health unit, while municipal guidelines do not allow for spectators at Chelmsford Arena or other local rinks, but all NOJHL games are to be streamed live on HockeyTV.com and broadcast on Eastlink.

Abundance of caution

The Express and Rapids were to meet in the third game of their series in Espanola on Friday night, but that game and a follow-up contest in Noelville on Saturday were postponed after the league learned a member of one team had been in close contact with someone who received a positive test for COVID-19.

“Postponing these two games is the best and safest course of action,” NOJHL commissioner Robert Mazzuca said in a press release. “At the current time, no member of either club has had a positive result in testing or showing any symptoms, however we will continue to encompass an overabundance of caution on this.”

The NOJHL is to announce additional cohort schedules within the next few days.

The Soo Thunderbirds and Blind River Beavers continued their own series in Sault Ste. Marie on Friday, following a 5-2 win for the Lock City squad this past Wednesday.

bleeson@postmedia.com

Twitter: @ben_leeson

First-period NOJHL action between the Espanola Express and French River Rapids at Noelville Community Centre on Tuesday, February 23, 2021.
First-period NOJHL action between the Espanola Express and French River Rapids at Noelville Community Centre on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. Photo by Ben Leeson/The Sudbury Star/Postmedia Network

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