Trying to stay positive but …

January 13, 2021

I try to be positive as it relates to what I like, support and am a part of in any way.

For instance, I try to focus on and support what is positive relative to the Sault’s downtown and surrounding area and their many good features, including small business.

And when it comes to a favourite amateur sport, I always aim to promote and feature minor hockey and junior hockey in the north, along with the kids who play it and the coaches who mentor the players.

Meantime, coronavirus notwithstanding, I am trying to stay positive.

I am trying to be cognizant of what Ontario Premier Doug Ford is going through and trying to do. Just as I am trying to grasp some of the recommendations that public health units in northeastern Ontario have been making to the provincial government.

But some of the decisions — not all of them — have me shaking my head. And I know that I am not in the minority when it comes to the head shaking as it pertains to northern Ontario.

What gets me is that so many small businesses have had their livelihoods put at risk by those making the lock down decisions relative to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. But as small business takes the hit, the big box stores are allowed to carry on.

Then there is the matter of hockey in, this case, the Sault and throughout northeastern Ontario.

Let us zero in on the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League which, at present, is comprised of nine teams that have seen regular season action thus far this season — Soo Thunderbirds, Blind River Beavers, Espanola Express, Rayside Balfour Canadians, French River Rapids, Timmins Rock, Cochrane Crunch, Kirkland Lake Gold Miners and Hearst Lumberjacks.

Of note, all nine teams are located in northeastern Ontario where there are not many cases of COVID-19.

And very notably, NOJHL commissioner Robert Mazzuca, when speaking to me, confirmed that each and every player who is back with their respective team following the Christmas holiday break has tested negative for the COVID-19 virus.

“We, as a league, made it mandatory that every player on every one of our teams was only allowed back in their respective community (after the Christmas break) if they had tested negative for COVID-19,” Mazzuca said evenly.

“And let me add that all of our active teams have complied with this … and we do not have a single player who is back with their respective team who has tested positive.

“Further to that, all players from out of town have had to adhere to the 14-day quarantine rules as set out by the public health units. And I want to add that many of the out of town players on a number of our teams stayed where they were and did not go home for Christmas,” Mazzuca pointed out.

To be sure, Mazzuca and the NOJHL have been on top of the COVID-19 situation ever since the league’s 2020-2021 regular season began on November 13. And, to be sure, 41 of the league’s 44 scheduled games before Christmas went on as slated — the three that did not were only postponed as precautionary measures and there was not a single positive test for COVID-19 among any player or team member.

But as Ontario has now declared a stay home state of emergency — that, quite clearly does not apply to every business or every employee — the NOJHL, as a junior hockey league, sits idle.

To that end — and as it also applies to small business — I wonder why the Ontario government did not separate the province by regions when it came to this latest form of lock down.

After all, every one of the so-called hot spots as they relate to COVID-19 are in southern Ontario. There is not a public health area of northeastern Ontario that has been declared a hot spot.

So, why lump northeastern Ontario with southern Ontario?

Again, I am trying to stay positive. And as during the first shut down, I will play by the rules that the government has set forth.

But in closing, I do have a question: If the situation was reversed and all of the COVID-19 hot spots were in northern Ontario, would southern Ontario be in a lock down with us?

What you think about “Trying to stay positive but …”

  1. Randy
    Very good article. In the North we have been treated and respected differently by the South and I can tell you with how I can say this because of my hockey experience during my northern junior days. When I agreed to become the first Commissioner of the league I was upset at the cooperation between the North vs South in the playoff to see who would advance to the Canadian Championship. We were continually arguing about dates, times and locations and usually had to give in in order to get things moving. I wasn’t a member of the NOHA so I decided to attend OHF meetings in Toronto as an observer. I sat in the audience for a year. I attended at our league’s expense. I listened, took notes and observed. The speakers had to be from those sitting at the table representing the seven Member Partners of the OHF. We were simply a league and did not sit at the NOHA’s table. We attempted to but were shut out each time we tried. This showed me that our concerns were never brought forward and it was as though the league didn’t exist. Finally, I approached the OHF President, Dr. Al Morris. I knew Al and he knew me so he suggested I should run for the Junior Council. I wasn’t eligible since I didn’t sit at one of the Member Partner’s table. Dr. Al put a motion forward at the next AGM that would allow people involved in hockey administration to run for a position. I did so and was elected to Chair the Junior Council. I feel I was instrumental in making major changes to the relationships with the other six Member Partners and I continued to run for positions and eventually served as President for six years before going to Hockey Canada.
    It was so frustrating to hear comments about why such an event or tournament should not take place in the North. Comments like too far, to costly to travel North, not enough hotels, should subsidize teams attending from the South, towns are too small, sponsor concerns, to cold, etc, etc. I told them that the North would show them how to run an event and how to treat people and visitors. I salute the Soo because when it was approved to have a tournament in the old Gardens we knocked their socks off with the organization, hospitality and the quantity and quality of the food in the VIP and scouts areas. A different outlook took place. Many events and tournaments have been in the North since with wonderful comments about the professionalism the city and the organizing committee put things in place.
    Yes I believe, like you, the Premier should have looked at different areas and treated them accordingly. We are different, we have different needs and want to be recognized and respected for being Northerners.
    I have been very vocal with the way the Box Stores are permitted to run loose during this pandemic. They will help to destroy our local people and their businesses. Why can someone buy an item at Costco or Walmart for example and the small local business or shop is forced to stay at home. He/she may soon be out of business. Another hit to Northern people. I’m not blaming the Box Stores but I blame the politicians who make policies and rules without carefully looking and analyzing the specific differences in all areas. We are much bigger than the South in this province.
    Sorry for such a long message but it truly irks me that more thought, concern and decisions take place too lightly.
    All the best Randy

  2. I think maybe the problem might be family or people coming north for some reason from down south and other parts of the country

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