Hockey

QMJHL suspends play in Quebec divisions due to coronavirus outbreak

The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has suspended play in both of its Quebec-based divisions until at least Oct. 28 because of COVID-19.

Provincial government commits $12 million to 'assure survival of league'

QMJHL commissioner Gilles Courteau is seen above in January. On Wednesday, the league announced it was suspended operations in Quebec due to a coronavirus outbreak. (Peter McCabe/The Canadian Press)

The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has suspended play in both of its Quebec-based divisions until at least Oct. 28 because of COVID-19.

The league will continue play with five of six teams in the Maritimes Division. The Moncton Wildcats will not play for now because of New Brunswick government restrictions in the area.

The league's Assembly of Members made the decision on Wednesday. The QMJHL plans to reassess the situation in two weeks.

The league says continuing play in Quebec became almost impossible with six of 12 teams located in red zones, where organized sport is prohibited.

The league, which opened its season on Oct. 2, had outbreaks on two teams last week.

The Blainville-Boisbriand Armada announced they had 18 positive tests, while the Sherbrooke Phoenix said they had eight after the two teams played each other twice on the first weekend of the season. Both teams suspended all activities and went into isolation after the positive tests.

Provincial government commits funding

The Quebec government is promising $12 million in funding for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League during the COVID-19 pandemic, while another province with teams in the organization says it is not prepared to make a similar move.

The money from Quebec — part of a $70 million package for sports and leisure federations — will be divided among the 12 QMJHL teams in the province with each team getting $1 million.

But Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said Thursday his province will not be providing financial assistance for the Halifax Mooseheads and Cape Breton Eagles — who make up one-third of the Maritimes Division in the 18-team league.

Quebec's move came Thursday, one day after the league suspended play in both of its Quebec divisions until at least Oct. 28. Six of the league's 12 Quebec-based teams are in red zones, where organized sport is currently prohibited.

The league is continuing play in its Maritimes Division, with five of six teams. The Moncton Wildcats will not play for now because of New Brunswick government restrictions in the area.

Isabelle Charest, Quebec's junior education minister, says the league helps drive economic development in several regions of the province.

The money is intended to "assure the survival of this league, which is a league that is very important in Quebec, in a sport that is very important in Quebec," said Charest.

McNeil answered with a flat "no" when asked whether the Nova Scotia government would be extending any financial aid to the Mooseheads or Eagles.

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