The Tillsonburg Thunder’s 2020-21 WOAA senior men’s hockey season has been cancelled.
“We had to make the decision,” said team president/owner Mike Holly.
“It was a sad day to vote for it,” said Holly, recalling the league’s Sept. 24 meeting. “I voted to close it down but I didn’t want to. Nobody wanted to.”
Current COVID restrictions at arenas made it impossible for them to conduct a ‘normal’ season.
“You’re only allowed 30 people… you take four referees/linesmen, timekeeper, scorekeeper, two coaches, and you’ve got to have trainers in case something happens. That’s 10 people. That only leaves 10 people on a side, with one goalie that’s only nine skaters.
“No contact … and we’re a contact hockey league. You have to stay three feet away from each other. So how do you check someone?
“It’s unfortunate, but it’s the rules of COVD. The arena (and Town of Tillsonburg staff) did what they could to hopefully get us in, but these are the rules of the game.”
Some COVID-19 restrictions may be lifted in January, he said, but league playoffs typically start in February.
“We don’t have playoff bubbles like the NHL – our guys have regular jobs.
“What we really didn’t want was to start back up, play a couple games, have a couple players test positive, and you have to shut it down.”
Last season’s WOAA playoffs ended abruptly in the semifinals due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Cancelling this season is not what we wanted to do. We were in the semifinals last season – we’ve got a good team. If we can bring those same guys back, we’ll challenge out there.”
Holly says some Thunder veterans might to retire, but he’s confidant most will return.
“They’re going to be ready to go.”
Holly said the Thunder are also considering running hockey clinics for minor hockey players in December/January.
“Again, it depends what restrictions are in place.”