Northern Ontario health units have issued statements of praise for the players of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League (NOJHL), who are now 100 per cent vaccinated against COVID-19.
The new regular season of NOJHL hockey began Sept. 16 with the Espanola Express up against the Sudbury Cubs at the Countryside Arena in Sudbury.
This follows a vaccine playoff program that was announced back in July to encourage the hockey players to get their shots.
The initiative was endorsed by Algoma Public Health, North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit, the Porcupine Health Unit, Public Health Sudbury and Districts and the Timiskaming Health Unit.
The NOJHL has teams in Blind River, Cochrane, Elliot Lake, Espanola, French River, Greater Sudbury, Hearst, Kirkland Lake, Powassan, Sault Ste. Marie (Canada), Sault Ste. Marie (U.S.) and Timmins.
The league said it was pleased that with the new hockey season beginning that the players came through with the vaccination initiative.
"As part of the friendly “Vaccine Playoffs” competition, vaccination rates for all hockey teams in the NOJHL have been posted weekly beginning in July and this week’s rates show 100 per cent full vaccination across the board," said a statement from the league.
Also among those voicing praise was Dr. Lianne Catton, Medical Officer of Health at the Porcupine Health Unit, which is the public health agency for three team communities.
“The NOJHL are champions! Their commitment to help promote vaccination in advance of the season’s start is to be commended. This helps protect their players, their fans and their communities from COVID-19,” said Catton.
“We are proud of all the players, coaches, and team staff for rolling up their sleeves and leading by example,” said Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, Medical Officer of Health with Public Health Sudbury and Districts. She also wished them success for the season and praised the league for its leadership.
As the vaccination program was being set up earlier in the summer, NOJHL Commissioner Robert Mazzuca said the league was glad of the idea and happy to work with the various health units to promote vaccines. He said the young hockey players are regarded as role models for youth across the North.
“The NOJHL is proud to support the efforts of our Regional Health Units as they strive to provide vaccinations to everyone within their communities. Our players are proud to be role models to the youth of the 12 communities that we represent, and we encourage everyone to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”
Len Gillis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com