The National Hockey League has been back on the ice for a few weeks now but the junior teams in Ontario that help feed it are not.
Players in the Ontario Hockey League are still waiting for the league to give the go-ahead.
“Just got to stay focused and stay on that work grind,” said Carson Christy, Mississauga Steelheads winger.
Christy should be finding his way on the ice in his first OHL season. Instead, the closest the 16-year-old is getting to the action these days is in the backyard.
“It’s pretty frustrating not getting to get out there and play the sport that you love and get to know your teammates, coaches, get that advice that you need to get to the next level,” said Christy.
Christy was drafted by the Mississauga Steelheads in April. He hasn’t played a meaningful game in over 10 months.
“I’ve been just working out, trying to stay fit, can’t really do too much because all COVID (restrictions), you can’t really do anything with anyone, not even a trainer,” said Christy.
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In a given year, skills coach Anthony Cornacchia with Edge Hockey would work with over 100 professional and OHL players.
These days, he’s sharing his skills with his kids in the backyard.
“A lot of these athletes right now are missing out on daily activities, skating, skills, puck handling — all the development focused areas are huge,” said Cornacchia.
This season is supposed to be Ottawa 67’s winger Brenden Sirizzotti’s NHL draft season.
“Everyone’s in the same boat,” he said.
The Whitby native is a C prospect and he’s even thought about going to Europe to try and boost his draft position.
“The draft is in five, six months and we haven’t even been able to play a game yet so it’s hard to comprehend,” said Sirizzotti.
Oshawa Generals GM Roger Hunt says his team has had four players go to Europe.
Ty Tulio is one of those Generals heading overseas to get in some game action during the pandemic. The GM says it’s part of a loan agreement, but one that hinges on an OHL season happening.
“We’re all working towards having a season, albeit condensed and shortened, but we just don’t know when that is,” said Hunt.
With the Quebec and Western leagues committing to seasons, Hunt says it’s only a matter of time before hockey is back at the Tribute Communities Centre but that the OHL is at the mercy of health professionals, the province and COVID-19 case numbers.
Until then, Christy, like so many other players, is keeping the hope alive that the season will come sooner, rather than later.