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CCHL will require players, coaches to be fully vaccinated

Tim Ruhnke – Recorder & Times

It’s not right away, but it’s coming.

The Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL) announced on Tuesday that its board of governors has voted unanimously to require that all players and personnel associated with the Jr. A league be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 for the upcoming season.

The two-shot requirement does not kick in immediately; the league has drafted target dates for a gradual move towards full vaccination. Those details were not provided in the news release issued.

Commissioner Kevin Abrams indicated in an interview on Tuesday afternoon that he is hoping the requirement will have been achieved when the CCHL drops the puck on its 2021-2022 campaign on Thursday, Sept. 23. However, he acknowledged there might be circumstances that could make full compliance by that date unachievable.

Abrams indicated that the board wanted to announce its intentions now; the league has provided target dates to teams for first and second vaccination deadlines.

“We really don’t know what the status is of the personnel we are dealing with,” he said, noting there could be issues with certain individuals being able to obtain a second vaccination by late September because of prescribed waiting periods between shots.

“There is some flexibility… but it’s not going to be an extended period,” Abrams said.

The Brockville Braves are hosting their prospect camp in Cardinal this weekend. The Braves are scheduled to open the regular season at home on Friday, Sept. 24.

The Memorial Centre arena floor has been used as a COVID vaccination centre since March, but the ice will be going back in early next month.

The commissioner expects “business as usual” when it comes to being able to play regular hockey rather than the reduced-contact developmental scrimmages that were imposed on junior hockey because of the pandemic last year.

Abrams’ understanding is some of the changes that affected spectators last season will be in play again this fall. Contact tracing will have to be done, and the face-mask requirement remains in effect.

“We can manage those things,” said Abrams.

Instead of imposing a limit of 50 spectators inside the rink as was the case last fall and winter, the province is now allowing 50 per cent of capacity or 1,000 – whichever is less – in indoor facilities as part of Step 3 of Ontario’s current COVID reopening plan.

The CCHL is planning to run a 55-game regular season, down from the usual 62. Playoffs would begin the fourth week of March.

There were no reported cases of COVID-19 involving the Jr. A league last fall or winter.

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