OUA, Ryerson Rams respond to Ontario government classifications of elite leagues

A yellow and blue basketball court with a game going on infront of a surrounding crowd.
The Ryerson Rams and other OUA universities released statements. Photo provided by Alex D'Addese/Ryerson Rams Athletics.
Daniel Centeno - CJRU - TorontoON | 06-01-2022
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The Ontario University Athletics (OUA) division of USPORTS is voicing opposition against their exclusion from the elite sports category outlined by the Ontario government amid the COVID-19 Omicron variant outbreak.

New restrictions were introduced on Jan.4. that listed specific sports leagues as "elite" that were allowed to continue their seasons with limited indoor capacities.

While junior leagues like the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and the Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association (OSBA) were permitted to continue, all OUA games were postponed until Jan.24, with the possibility of extending the pause if necessary.

The OUA released a statement this week, saying that Ontario university athletes are elite, and deserve to finish their seasons as well.

“The notion that the hard-working student-athletes, who have long strived toward the goal of competing at the post-secondary level and proudly representing one of the OUA’s 20 member institutions in the sport they love, aren’t considered elite by the Government of Ontario is a disservice to the dedication, commitment, and talent that they continue to show on a day-to-day basis," the statement reads.

The statement outlines the levels that Canadian university athletes have competed in, which include various international competitions and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Further, OUA writes that competing at the university level is a goal of several athletes, and many who come from the OHL and the OSBA.

“It is the privilege of thousands to compete at the university level each year. It is the joy of many to turn their post-secondary experiences into continued athletic success beyond their years at school. And it is the right of all of these past, present, and future OUA student-athletes to be given the recognition and the respect they deserve.”

The hashtag #OUAisELITE began to circulate online in solidarity with the OUA.

Teams, players and coaches shared the statement using the hashtag, and included their own opinions about the postponements.

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The Ryerson Rams released their own statement voicing their opposition to the Ontario government pausing the OUA season. Photo courtesy of the Ryerson Rams.

Along with the OUA statement, other schools including Ryerson University, Humber College and the University of Windsor issued their own statements regarding the Ontario government’s decision.

Posts include those from Ryerson Rams women’s basketball guard Mikaela Dodig, who took to Instagram to voice her frustrations over the postponements. She mentions the cancellation of the entire 2020-21 season, and the uncertainty during her last year of USPORTS eligibility.

Since March 2020, the women’s team have only been able to play six regular season games prior Ryerson postponed remaining scheduled games in 2021 on Dec.17.

Prior to coming to Ryerson, Dodig was part of the University of New Brunswick Reds varsity team.

Dodig is expected to speak with CJRU later this week about navigating through her senior year as a student-athlete.

With the continuation of the season unknown at the moment, more than 30 OUA players have decided to leave school and sign professional contracts with various ECHL, AHL and European teams.

This includes York Lions men’s hockey captain Justin Bean. The senior defencemen signed with the Cinncinati Cylones of the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL).

The Cyclones are the minor league affiliate of the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League and the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres.

Bean played six games this season for the Lions prior to ending his collegiate career.

The right hand shot defenceman, who is currently in Cincinnati, is expected to speak with CJRU later this week to discuss his decision to turn pro.

More details to follow.

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