I can’t tell you how excited I am for the return of Junior hockey in February. Writing a sports column when there is no local sports going on is a major challenge. Now that hockey is back, along with other sports returning, this should be a lot easier!

While hockey will resume next month, Junior hockey leagues in the area, as well as the EOSHL senior league, are each taking a different approach as to how they will complete their schedules. Here is a look at plans in place as of Monday, January 24.

CCHL will complete full schedule

The Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL) plans to complete its full 55-game schedule over the next two months. The Junior A league’s schedule of games will start on Wednesday, February 2, and continue until Sunday, April 3.

While the league’s shutdown for the month of January compresses the schedule, officials note the CCHL has the least amount of travel of any league at the Junior A level in North America and many road trips are under an hour in length. That, combined with the absence of game play for the past 20 months for its players, helped make the decision to continue on with the 55-game slate.

Upon completion of the regular season schedule, the CCHL will follow its usual playoff format of three rounds of best-of-seven series.

NCJHL will play in three-team groups

The National Capital Junior Hockey League (NCJHL) Junior C league will return to play in the first week of February. Play will consist of three three-team groups based on their standings at the Christmas break and games will be a home-and-home series to rank teams for the playoffs.

The groups are as follows: Group 1 – Almonte, Metcalfe, Morrisburg; Group 2 – North Dundas, St-Isidore, Vankleek Hill; Group 3 – Clarence, Gatineau, South Grenville.

At the end of the group play, the eighth and ninth ranked teams will have a mini-playoff to determine the final playoff spot.

Play will resume on Friday, February 4, with the St-Isidore Eagles on the road in North Dundas. On Saturday, February 5, the Vankleek Hill Cougars will be at home against North Dundas, while the Clarence Castors will visit the South Grenville Rangers.

EOSHL plans return to play

Eastern Ontario Super Hockey League (EOSHL) owners and general managers met last week via video conference after the province’s announcement.

League President Mitch Gagne said it will take a few days to have each team follow up with their arenas to make sure protocols all around the league are all met. The Senior hockey league was planning to announce by the end of this week.

Minor hockey play returns

The Eastern Prescott-Russell Minor Hockey Association (EPRMHA) will also be restarting play as of January 31.

Schedule updates for the remainder of the season will be available in the upcoming days. Parents are asked to check their team’s schedule regularly on the EPRMHA website http://eprmha.ca/. Updates are also provided on the EPRMHA Facebook page.

Known as Vankleek Hill’s Sports Authority, Mackenzie Hinton writes regular sports updates on his popular Facebook page. Mac is the statistician for the Vankleek Hill Cougars and Hawkesbury Hawks Junior hockey clubs. His column appears weekly in The Review.