CALGARY, Alta. – During these uncertain times, the Canadian Junior Hockey League continues to work diligently with its member leagues, partners, Hockey Canada, the National Hockey League as well as local, provincial and federal health organizations on potential ‘Return to Play’ scenarios and other areas of interest.
With that in mind, CJHL President Brent Ladds took some time out of his schedule to provide some insight and updates on the league with this June 1 Q&A session.
CJHL: What are some of the key items the CJHL has been working on with its member leagues and Hockey Canada during these unprecedented times of COVID-19?
BRENT LADDS: We have been focusing on the upcoming season and what that might look like, come September.
There is a possibility of staggered openings, which impacts registration and cut-down regulations, so giving consideration to a number of scenarios, we have had to redesign time tables for guidelines, that would address those possibilities, which we have done with the assistance of Hockey Canada, and their members.
In addition, we stay closely tuned to the daily national and provincial health reports and information provided to us, to ensure that we are able to react accordingly.
CJHL: Do you have any updates of potential return to play scenarios?
BL: Like everyone else, we do not have a crystal ball, so the media the daily medical reports, as well as our ongoing discussions with Hockey Canada, are our best sources of information. It is too early to predict when our return will materialize, but we are certainly aiming for a September start, with proper approvals through federal, provincial and regional health authorities.
CJHL: What insight do you have for players considering their options when deciding to play Jr. A hockey across Canada?
BL: We opened up the Hockey Canada Registry today allowing our member teams to start registering players.
We are planning on being in business in the fall.
CJHL: Well over 2,500 CJHL alumni played at higher levels during the the2019-20 season. Talk about those ever-growing numbers that competed in the NHL, NCAA, U SPORTS and the CHL and what does that tell you about the league’s ever-improving product across the country?
BL: There may have been a time when CJHL opportunities were considered as secondary options, but with the growing number of players transitioning and graduating to higher levels of hockey in the last 10 years and with the increasing focus on our program by the NHL as well as their direct involvement in some of our programs such as the World Jr. A Challenge and our Prospects Game, the CJHL has become a program of ‘destination.’
A great deal of credit for raising the profile of our program has to be directed to our 10 league commissioners as well as the owners, operators, and community groups, who do such a wonderful job of raising the profile of our program regionally.
CJHL: Discuss the success and exposure the CJHL draws from its annual Prospects Game and the World Jr. A Challenge, in partnership with the NHL and Hockey Canada.
BL: The NHL is the highest profiled hockey league in the world and through the extension and openness of their efforts to ensure that players everywhere have the opportunity to compete, develop, and be seen, they have drawn the CJHL into the world stage conversation. This is through their support of our international event, the World Junior A Challenge and because of their direct involvement in our Prospects Game.
Their efforts provide potential players with the confidence that investing their careers in the CJHL can be very rewarding.
CJHL: What are some areas you and the CJHL Board would like to see the league take the next step in both regionally and nationally?
BL: We are always striving for consistency in our administrative practices, so we have to continue to address those challenges. We want to ensure that each league, is able to capitalize on the profile of the CJHL to attract top players to its program so that they then monitor the experience, to ensure that the players grow and develop and are eventually rewarded either on the ice, or their future endeavors off the ice.
In addition, we have a very unique geographic foot print, that can be uniquely packaged to provide the private sector with marketing opportunities, that we have to begin, to promote, more earnestly then we have in the past.
CJHL: Do you have any closing thoughts to wrap things up?
BL: The success of the CJHL is based on caring people who came before us, and those who are currently with us within all our communities throughout Canada and pockets of the northern U.S. It is a unique program set out in 10 leagues stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
We have a wonderful staff in the areas of communications and officiating development, with both Tom Annelin, and Brad Lazarowich respectively, who do a tremendous job providing insight and improvements, in areas that are so vital to our existence.
Within the diversity that would normally exist for an organization of our size, transitioning from urban areas, to rural and agricultural regions, as well as maritime areas, I find it exceedingly astonishing, that the CJHL is able to provide a platform for players that mirrors opportunity throughout our two countries, promotes common goals and at the same time, sustains achievable objectives.
We fulfill most of our vision internally, but we receive a great deal of support and assistance from our premier hockey partner, Hockey Canada, that allows us to do so.