Hockey players across the region received some unfortunate news today, after leadership with the Superior International Junior Hockey League chose to cancel their 2020-2021 season.

Commissioner Darrin Nicholas says the league has fought for exemptions from public health guidelines, but due to restrictions still in place in northwestern Ontario and Thunder Bay, it’s no longer reasonable to hope the league will return to normal anytime soon.

“The 20-21 SIJHL season will be remembered as a roller-coaster of emotions. From fear we wouldn’t even be able to start, to joy when a pathway back to the ice was available, to optimism that as we progressed conditions might allow for a return to more ‘normal’ hockey, to hope that we might just be able to continue in any fashion and now finally sadness in facing the reality of where we are today.”

Before the pause, teams took part in exhibition games before 4 teams were able to take part in 4 regulation games each. The Dryden GM Ice Dogs and Kam River Fighting Walleye were leading the league with a 3-1 record each.

The Wisconsin Lumberjacks were one of two new teams added to the SIJHL this year, along with the Fighting Walleye. The Kenora AAA Thistles along with the U16 and U18 Thunder Bay AAA Kings would later be added to the league, as they couldn’t take part in Manitoba’s league.

“I would like to personally commend our entire group of team administrators, staff, players and Hockey Northwestern Ontario for the efforts and commitment to provide a safe and positive experience this season,” added Nicholas, who acknowledged how hard it’s been on players born in 2,000, who spent their final Junior season in limbo.

“You are without doubt part of a graduating class that has endured the most challenging time in junior hockey history. With the loss of the playoffs last season, and then the minimal return to action this year, I certainly feel your pain. Please know we did within our means to try and get you back on the ice. Always remember: tough times don’t last, tough people do.”

Nicholas notes the league will begin focusing on planning for the 2021-2022 hockey season, which will mark the SIJHL’s 20th year in operation.

For more information:
SIJHL’s season still paused, not cancelled
Ice Dogs, Thistles affected by SIJHL pause