The Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League was among three provincial Junior A leagues to announce a vaccination policy on Wednesday.
The policy well see all members of the league, be it players, coaches, trainers, team and league staff, officials, volunteers, and billet families, to be fully vaccinated prior to the start of team activities ahead of the 2021-22 season.
Locally, the Soo Thunderbirds were open to the new policy ahead of the new season.
“Our players and staff have been great,” said Thunderbirds general manager Jamie Henderson when asked about the new policy. “They understand how important it is to get vaccinated, not only to keep everyone on our club safe and healthy, but just as important for our family and friend around us. If that allows us to get back to normal a little bit quicker and we can keep people safe and healthy, then we’re all for it.”
With regular season action set to begin in mid-September and the U.S. border still closed to Canadians crossing over, it poses an issue with the NOJHL having one American-based team.
The Thunderbirds are scheduled to travel to the Michigan Sault to face the Soo Eagles in the opening game of the regular season for both clubs on Sept. 17.
The U.S. border is currently scheduled to remain closed until at least Sept. 21.
“We have full confidence that the league has great contingency plans (in place),” Henderson said. “Ultimately, we’re just waiting. We’re just preparing for the season as we normally would be and if we have to make adjustments in a couple of weeks time, we’ll make adjustments.”