As the sports world turns to leadership in facing the COVID-19 pandemic, Junior Hockey Magazine recently chatted with Ontario Hockey League commissioner David Branch about his league’s response to the global outbreak including the cancellation of the 2020 Memorial Cup:
Junior Hockey Magazine: How are you keeping up through all of this?
David Branch: Perspective at this time is most important. Of course you immediately have to value good health for yourself and your family and friends. You recognize all of the trials and tribulations that so many people are going through. When you look at the grand scheme of things in the little area of the world that we reside – that being junior hockey – it is about the health and welfare of our players and their families and everyone involved. We’re all excited and looking forward to moving forward and getting through these times because from where I sit I see a real team effort here federally, provincially with our government, and everyone working to get the solution sooner as opposed to later.
JHM: Did you ever in your wildest imagination think that we would be at a point where you would have to cancel the Memorial Cup for the first time in over a century?
DB: Absolutely not. To that point, I can recall, I was meeting with my fellow commissioners, Ron Robison and Gilles Courteau, and President Dan MacKenzie, and the one thing I said, and this goes back to probably the first week in March, in the infancy of everything that was happening, I said we have to do everything possible to make sure we proceed with the Memorial Cup. We owe it to the legacy of that event and who it is named for and in honour of, the men and women who paid the supreme sacrifice for our great country in the First World War. We were all committed to making that happen, but as things started to evolve unfortunately we had to reset our goals and move forward. After 102 years of consecutive presentation, it is hurtful but in the grand scheme of things it’s not as big as some of us make it out to be. We’ll look forward to presenting it next season.
JHM: In this particular instance it’s really been taken out our your hands because there are people way above you and I who have to make much more significant decisions, and then it trickles down. How difficult was it to have to be forced to have to wait to find out the directive from people above us from municipal, provincial, and federal governments?
DB: The key role that I have had to perform and must continue to perform is some next steps and what is coming at us and not turn our back on some of the things that are happening in our communities in our province and in our country. I think the delivery of getting our owners, general managers, and teams to work together and understand the importance of responding as we have has been the key role we have played so far, which is a little different. There is no playbook here as we all know and it is so unprecedented, but as commissioners of the leagues we must make sure that our teams understand, and they do. Do they want to cancel the regular season, playoffs, and Memorial Cup? Absolutely not but in looking at many of the developments across our country, North America, and the world, there was a picture being painted and we had to make sure we recognized it properly and at the right time.