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Rock and a hard place: Moncton Wildcats excited for extended holiday break but want to be on the ice

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WATCH: The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has been put on hold until next month. Players are now getting ready to head home for the holidays, but many say they want to be on the ice. Callum Smith has the story. – Dec 2, 2020

With news the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League would ice all activities until January due to a rise in COVID-19 cases and restrictions, players are now getting ready to head home for the holidays.

There’s a sense of excitement to see their families, especially during a difficult year.

Rookie Vincent Labelle hasn’t seen his family in his hometown near Ottawa since August.

“I’m looking forward to seeing my mom, my dad, my step-parents,” says the 18-year-old. “My girlfriend misses me, too, so I’m excited to see her.”

But these players want to be on the ice. Missed games means missed opportunities for NHL scouts to watch them.

“I want to play and it’s my draft year so for me, it’s a little bit sad,” says 17-year-old defenceman Charles-Antoine Pilote. “But it’s like that for everyone. We have no choice.”

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Read more: Coronavirus — QMJHL weighing different scenarios as it plans for a return to play in 2021

The year has been tough on the organization, too.

The Wildcats knew this year wouldn’t be great, says Keven Charland, the director of business operations.

Typically, the team averages more than 5,000 fans per home game. But due to limited capacity, only 2,300 fans were allowed to attend games at the Avenir Centre this year.

“Obviously having less people in the building means less food and beverage revenue, and 50/50 sales and merchandise,” Charland says. “So, yeah, we did take a hit this year.”

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Charland couldn’t provide specific details on financial losses because the information is “confidential,” but he said slashed ticket sales and decreased revenues paint an accurate picture.

Regardless, the league says it has no regrets playing this year.

A spokesperson says they’re “very hopeful” action can, indeed, resume in January.

Read more: Drummondville Voltigeurs hockey team suspends activities after player tests positive for COVID-19

The goal is to have teams in the Maritimes play on as they have been, travelling among the three provinces.

“Hopefully the teams being able to play against each other in their home rinks at some point in January,” Karl Jahnke, the chief marketing officer for the QMJHL, tells Global News. “And if that’s not possible, well, we’re planning for contingencies like these controlled environments.”

A controlled or protected environment means players would essentially “bubble” and play in a few select host arenas.

The first part of the contingency plan would be to have the six teams in the Maritimes separated in two host rinks, eventually moving to one rink where all teams would play.

All plans are pending approval from public health officials in each province.

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The Western Hockey League and Ontario Hockey League, the other leagues making up the Canadian Hockey League, have yet to play any games this year.

Both those leagues are also targetting gameplay in 2021, but only time will tell how COVID-19 will impact those plans.