QMJHL players, staff and billet families must be fully vaccinated ahead of season

·3 min read

Players and staff with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League will need to roll up their sleeves for both COVID-19 jabs ahead of the season kickoff this fall.

"Players that attend training camps, all personnel and billet families need to have double vaccination in order to play the season," said Karl Jahnke, the chief marketing officer for the QMJHL.

While he said the decision to get vaccinated is a personal choice, any player or staff who comes into contact with other players must receive both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The reaction to the QMJHL policy sent out to clubs at the end of June has been positive so far, he said, because the aim is to avoid the financial losses of last season.

"Nobody wants to go back to where we had to cancel games, and we had to suffer pretty enormous losses of revenue," Jahnke said, noting the QMJHL is working with public health departments in all club provinces to build spectator capacity for games.

Sea Dogs president and general manager Trevor Georgie said the policy hasn't created too big a hurdle for Saint John's team.

"We've run into a few situations and probably, like a lot of teams, you have one-off situations where you may have a player for whatever reason that hasn't been vaccinated or a staff member or a player coming from Europe that may not have the same vaccination standards in terms of the actual types of vaccines," he said.

Since the policy was announced, Georgie said one billet family that has been a team staple over the years has said it won't be able to participate this year.

This season, he said, arenas will be permitted to operate at full capacity in terms of fans after the province goes green and lifts all restrictions at 11:59 p.m. on July 30.

Last year, while the Sea Dogs were able to play some games with spectators, only 1,500 fans could attend, as opposed to the maximum of roughly 6,000, which brought in a fraction of the team's revenue.

"That's a huge difference," Georgie said. "Our expenses actually increased because you have all the different (COVID-19) protocols and so many different windows of quarantining, which is quite financially significant."

He's hoping the massive financial loss due to the pandemic will be recouped by a successful bid to host the 2022 Memorial Cup.

The tournament, scheduled to take place from June 3 to 12, 2022, will feature the playoff champions from the Western Hockey League, the Ontario Hockey League, and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, as well as the chosen QMJHL host club.

The Quebec Remparts also filed a bid to host the 2022 Memorial Cup. The successful host club will be announced during the week of Sept. 6.

"It's a very significant commitment to host that but now knowing that things are green to proceed in terms of capacity, it makes hosting something like that much more palatable," Georgie said.

"That type of event generates upwards of a million dollars a day in a financial spinoff for the local economy, so it would be a really big coup if we were to get that."

Sylvain Couturier, general manager for the Acadie-Bathurst Titan, said the team informed all of its players when the league came out with the vaccine requirement, and so far everybody seems to be on board.

"The players know if they don't have their two vaccines, they're not going to be on the ice," said Couturier. "It's a protocol that the league put on, and we're going to respect that for sure."

Brunswick News reached out to the Moncton Wildcats, but the team declined to comment.

"All questions related to player vaccinations are going through the QMJHL," said Courtney Huestis, the team's manager of marketing and communications.

– With files from Sean Mott and Alexander Johnson

Robin Grant, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal

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