The Ontario Hockey League will require everyone from players and coaches to volunteers and billets to be fully vaccinated prior to the start of the 2021-2022 season or risk not being involved until the pandemic is over or no longer a significant risk.
The Ontario Hockey League Vaccination Policy was sent to teams last week and posted on the league website this week, although no news release was sent to media. The substance of the policy was first reported by Erie-based journalist Mark Scheig of thehockeywriters.com.
"The Ontario Hockey League requires that all OHL Community Members be vaccinated against COVID-19, in accordance with the remainder of this policy at least 14 days prior to the commencement of the 2021/2022 season," says the policy.
"This policy applies to all OHL Community Members, which includes individuals who attend training camp, practices, games or play in the OHL, and specifically includes all players, coaches, trainers, team and league staff, officials, volunteers, and billet families. Billet family members under the permitted age for vaccination by applicable Public Health Agencies are excluded. This policy is effective immediately, with due regard for the availability of COVID-19 vaccines."
Those involved with the league will have to show proof of having two approved vaccinations.
"The close contact nature of organized hockey makes compliance with social distancing impossible and reduces the effectiveness of other infectious disease transmission protocols such as masking," it says.
Violations could result in OHL staff being placed on unpaid leave "for the duration of the pandemic or until such time that COVID-19 no longer poses a significant public health risk."
Players could be removed from rosters for the same period and volunteers and billets could be banned for the same period.
There will be accommodations where:
- Proof of vaccination is not possible due to the lack of availability of the vaccine at the time of this policy;
- The OHL community member’s reason for not being vaccinated; and
- Documentation to substantiate a medical or protected ground reason for not being vaccinated.
OHL training camps are expected to open in early September. The season is scheduled to start the first week of October.