A year ago, the Ontario Hockey League was ramping up towards another post-season and all of a sudden, like the rest of the world, it hit a wall.
The Canadian Hockey League released a statement, pausing junior hockey around the country due to the pandemic.
“I only came home with a duffel bag with, like, a tracksuit and a few pairs of socks,” said Ethan Keppen, Flint Firebirds forward.
Keppen and his team were returning to Flint, Mich., at the time and they were sent home.
“I still have most of my stuff down there and hoping I get to see them again someday and get the rest of my stuff,” said Keppen.
The Whitby product was thinking he’d be back with his teammates in a few weeks but it’s turned into a year.
It’s been 365 days of no games but he’s ready for when that day comes.
“Just have my head down, work hard and hope for the best,” said Keppen.
Brenden Sirizzotti was on the ice at practice in Ottawa with the 67’s when he found out.
“Everyone just wants to get back, it’s been so long and I haven’t played a real game of hockey in over a year, so just getting back and seeing how hard you worked in the off-season,” Sirizzotti said.
Anthony Cornacchia trains a bunch of OHL players. Due to the restrictions, they’ve been on and off over the past 12 months but he says his challenge is to make sure they’re ready not only physically but also mentally.
“Every one of these guys are ready, they’ve trained, they’ve developed and we’ve kept them motivated,” said Cornacchia with Edge Hockey.
Oshawa Generals GM Roger Hunt said his team was going to head to Ottawa when the season was paused.
“The bus was loaded,” he said.
Hunt can’t wait for the day he can bring his team back together and make another Memorial Cup run.
But for now, the Tribute Communities Centre continues to pretty much sit empty.
“Here we sit, here we wait and fingers crossed, who knows what the next week brings,” said Hunt.
There’s no telling when players will be able to return back to game action. The OHL says it continues to work closely with the government and public health on a safe return to play.