Hockey Canada released an initial set of "Return to Play" guidelines earlier this month.
Anyone who took this as a sign that we are likely to see the Great North Midget League up and running, with business as usual, by the end of September is likely sadly mistaken, according to GNML commissioner Albert Corradini.
"I think there's going to be hockey, on some way, shape, or form, this year," he said. "But my opinion is that we're not going to see hockey as it was last year at the front end of this season, and maybe not even before the end of the season."
"Again, these are just my views - I don't have any inside information," Corradini added. "In the absence of a vaccine or some way to mitigate the risk to the participants, I don't know that we are going to go back to where we were, to play hockey the way that we played hockey, to travel the way that we travelled."
It's an opinion that he shared with league members some five to six weeks ago, sharing some thoughts on what hockey might look like in the upcoming year. While the key, Corradini indicated, still lies in the health side of the equation, recognizing that the GNML will take their directions from Hockey Canada and the health professionals, from the OHF and the NOHA, there is still more to this issue.
"The other part of the equation involves the financial perspective of the current situation," he said. "It's not just that families might be struggling, financially. About a third of our budgeted revenues, and I am drawing on running a midget AAA team for twelve years, came from sponsors."
"I don't envision that there will be a lot of businesses that are looking to cut cheques to any hockey players, given the suffering that most businesses have endured," Corradini noted. "Are they going to be more inclined to write a cheque for a kid to play hockey, or more inclined to write a cheque to keep another employee working?"
While he fully accepts the fact that we are likely to see hockey players in northern Ontario on the ice, before too long, there is still a long way to go before the GNML will even entertain the discussion of putting together any kind of league schedule, at least a schedule that would resemble, even slightly, what we have seen for the past twenty years or more.
"Is hockey going to be perhaps more regional in nature, at least to start?", pondered Corradini. "That's my guess - but it's only a guess."