08/04/19

The OHL Grind

Words: Geoffrey Knott

Images: Geoffrey Knott

Winters in southern Ontario and the Great Lakes region are so cruel they feel punitive. The sun sets before 5pm and daytime average highs don’t climb above freezing for months. As the season wrestles the province into submission and legislates a sort of arctic stasis, arenas across the frozen region serve as incubators for the most elite junior hockey talent in the world.

For the past fifty years, 21% of all NHLers have played in the Ontario Hockey League, making it an unrivalled breeding ground of hockey talent. Junior prospects from all over the world endure gruelling schedules and team obligations for a chance to develop in the twenty team league, where pro scouts are everywhere, and the calibre of play is unmatched.

Players, many still in high school, still have a lot to learn while waiting for a call that may come tomorrow, or not at all; but across the league, a sense of optimism prevails, the understanding that everyone knows they’re getting very close.