The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) has announced that it has been forced to suspend its competition because of the current state of the Covid-19 pandemic in Canada.
Games are now due to begin again in early January, although that may be revisited depending on what happens with the virus during the intervening period.
It is a blow to both players and those fans hoping to watch a game or two over the holiday period. Also, bookmakers had to remove all bets from their sites.
The QMJHL was the only one of Canada’s major junior hockey leagues to start on time anyway. The other two – the Western Hockey League (WHL) and the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) decided to postpone their seasons until 2021 already. The WHL is due to get underway in January and the OHL a month later.
However, Covid has meant that the QMJHL has had problems since the 18-team hockey league started two months ago. Several games have already had to be postponed because of local restrictions. Several teams in the Quebec region temporarily relocated to Quebec City to play several matches because of local lockdowns in November.
According to QMJHL commissioner, Gilles Courteau current Covid protocols make it exceedingly difficult to play games at the moment.
The so-called Maritime Provinces – the region of Eastern Canada comprising New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island – have restricted access and travel, while Quebec itself is in the red zone.
Founded in 1969, the QMJHL was originally based on teams located around the Montreal area, though, since then, it has expanded its reach eastwards. Many of the players who began in the league have had successful professional careers, either in Canada or the NHL.
The teams contesting the league each season compete in the President’s Cup. The winners then go on to play the winners of the WHL and OHL champions and a team from the Canadian Hockey League for the right to lift the Memorial Cup.
The current defending champions of the President’s Cup are the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, who also clinch the Memorial Cup.
They are currently fourth in the standings, which the Charlottetown islanders lead. However, they have played more games than virtually every team in the league, some of whom have seen multiple games postponed. For example, the bottom team, Sherbrooke, Phoenix, has only been able to play six matches so far.
Canada to date has experienced nearly 470,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and just under 14,000 deaths reported. However, medical authorities are bracing themselves for a surge of new cases over the holiday period as families are tempted to forget normal health precautions and the rules on social distancing and gather together.