Dario Zulich's 'heart is pounding' as OHL gives green light for 2020 season
League gives clearance to begin 64-game schedule Dec. 1
Dario Zulich, the owner of the Sudbury Wolves, says news the Ontario Hockey League is planning to start its season has got his heart pounding.
Teams in the OHL have been off-ice since the league cancelled play in March, following the outbreak of COVID-19.
On Wednesday, the league said it's planning for a Dec. 1 start date, with 64 games and playoffs scheduled in April.
But that will all depend on how well Ontario manages COVID-19. And while Zulich said he's exicted, safety comes first.
"The number one thing to remember is that this is entertainment," Zulich said. "This is not an essential service. Health care workers or even mine sites are still the number one priority."
"We don't know how it's going to unfold. There could be a second spike and the future is uncertain," Zulich said. "So we are very cautious.
"We're just going to keep safety for the players, safety for the fans, for the employees, the city and obviously that is of paramount importance and that can never be compromised."
Restoring some 'normalcy'
There are still plenty of details to be worked out with the health officials and the city. But Zulich said they now have an end goal, which makes planning more focused, not just for the owners, but for players and staff.
"We will have plans in place for people traveling, coming into training camp and when we go travel outside," Zulich said.
"All of these things have to be thought through, but they can now be thought through with intention and some passion because we have a start date."
Kyle Raftis, general manager of the Soo Greyhounds, said most of his players have been training during the delay, and the start date now provides some structure.
"When sports are off, I was kind of struggling with what to do with a lot of my time," said Raftis. "So I think for me it just gives that chance of getting back to that normalcy."
Raftis said getting back on the ice will also give players a jolt of enthusiasm.
"Whenever you get people doing something that they love it's always a fun environment to be around," he said.
"And I know the fan base is always very passionate about their team and love. It's a hot topic in the city and everyone's always excited to chat about it, too, so hopefully we can continue to progress the right way and get on the ice."