COVID-19 restrictions cause season cancellations by Espanola, French River, Rayside-Balfour

SUDBURY, Ont. – The Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League announced Wednesday that due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions in the Greater Sudbury area, the Espanola Express, French River Rapids and Rayside-Balfour Canadians have all made the difficult decision to cancel the remainder of their respective seasons, effective immediately.

This news comes in lieu of the recent edict made by the Sudbury & District Health Unit, which included the following: That all in-person team sports are being prohibited from being played or practiced.

These restrictions are in addition to all measures required under the Province’s Red-Control framework.

The Municipality of Greater Sudbury had also announced the indefinite closure of all local community arenas, including the removal of the ice at Chelmsford Arena, home of the Canadians.

The Regional Recreation Complex in Espanola and Noelville Arena, where the Express and Rapids play out of, respectively, will be removing their ice as well.

“The NOJHL respects and understands the difficult decisions made by all-involved parties,” stated league commissioner Robert Mazzuca.

“All of our member clubs, including the Espanola Express, French River Rapids and Rayside-Balfour Canadians, did an incredible job working together to make the best out of a very trying and ongoing situation,” added Mazzuca.

“Unfortunately, with the increased number of COVID-19-related cases in the Greater Sudbury area, it made it extremely hard to continue the season in these three communities.”

With due diligence, strategic planning and testing of NOJHL teams, as well as working closely, and in conjunction, with local towns and regional Public Health Units, there were no positive cases that resulted from league players, coaching staffs or officials.

“We thank all the players and staffs for their commitments in representing the NOJHL at such a high standard throughout,” added Mazzuca.

“While it’s not the news we were hoping for today in Espanola, French River and Rayside-Balfour, we wish everyone the best, especially those who are concluding their Jr. A careers with us.”

Meanwhile, the Soo Thunderbirds and Blind River Beavers are slated to continue their current cohort series with an additional set of games, set to be announced once that schedule is finalized.